Jean Baptiste Charcot (1867-1936)
Jean Naptiste Charcot, although a trained doctor, dedicated all his spare time to ships and to the sea. In the summer of 1901, he sailed the long distance to the Faroe Islands (North Atlantic). A year later, he went to the island of Jan Mayen, inside the Arctic Circle.
In 1903, he began building the Français with which he made a first expedition to the South Pole between 1903 and 1905. Throughout the winter, he made several expeditions and ascents in order to record astronomical and topographical observations and make an inventory of some of the fauna, rocks and minerals.
The Pourquoi-Pas? , the fourth ship to bear that name, and larger than the Français, was launched on May 18 1908 in Saint-Malo. Sponsored by the Académie des Sciences, the Muséum d'histoire naturelle and the Institut d'Océanographie, included 4 scientists who studied botany, zoology, geology and magentism, a new expedition was made to the South Pole in 1908/1910. The results of that new mission were enlightening: understanding of the Antarctic peninsula was considerably enriched; many maps of both the land and the sea were drawn. All the information was written up in a 28 volume dissertation, illustrated by some 8000 photographs.
During the First World War, Jean Baptiste Charcot was a naval Lieutenant onboard an anti-submarine ship.
In 1919, he restarted his oceanographic campagins. On the night of September 15 1936, the Pourquoi pas? sank in a storm off Iceland. There was only one survivor.
In memory of Jean Baptiste Charcot, Ifremer chose to restore the spelling Pourquoi pas? and the abbreviation Pp? that he used in all correspondance referring to his ship.