The comparison is quite terrible. When, in 1906, Prince Albert Ier of Monaco (1848-1922) set foot on the Lilliehöök glacier, in Spitsbergen (North Pole), he brought back photos of a large wall of ice emerging from the lustral waters. A century later, in 2005, when his descendant, Prince Albert II returned to Lilliehöök, there was almost nothing left of the ice… and the surrounding hills, once furrowed with snow, were bare.
As we know, the news is not encouraging for the poles, as for any of the wild lands that still exist on the globe. All the more reason to rush to see the beautiful “Polar Mission” exhibition that the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco opened in June: we reconnect with the time when these white jewels were only accessible to a handful of furious people, ready to face frostbite, snowstorms, even death to better know their secrets.
Magnificent Inuit carvings
Among them, we find – therefore – the great-grandfather of Albert II, the dashing Albert Ierresponsible for no less than twenty-eight oceanographic campaigns between 1885 and 1915. His ship in Monegasque colors (red and white), “Princesse-Alice II”, technically ahead of all the others at the time, was the place where hydrographic surveys are carried out, analyzes of the fauna of the deep sea and where the first sounding balloons are launched to study the atmosphere.
“Polar Mission” also dwells on the collection bequeathed by the legendary geographer Jean Malaurie (99 years old today), author of the ethnographic survey “The Last Kings of Thule” (1955) which reports on his expeditions to Greenland. There are magnificent Inuit sculptures – a tupilaka kind of sneering troll – and examples of the very singular (futuristic?) writing of the peoples of the North.
Finally, we will remember the poetic immersion room, which combines 650 square meters of projections to install the visitor among the frozen heart of the ice floe, with colonies of penguins, belugas and polar bear cubs. Its realism makes us fear catching pneumonia there, but the only disease that we will contract there, for sure, is the love of the poles.
“Polar Mission”(until 2024), Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, avenue Saint-Martin, open daily, 18 euros (adult rate).We will find here a large number of educational activities and videos on the poles, created by the Monegasque museum.