Jean Charcot


Jean-Baptiste Charcot is born on 15 July 1867 at Neuilly-sur-Seine ; he is the son of Doctor Jean-Martin Charcot and becoming doctor himself. he works at Institut Pasteur, then becomes auxiliary physician of the fleet. He undertakes several personal cruises and several official missions at sea. 
In 1897-99, Adrien de Gerlache achieves the first winter in Antarctic on board of BELGICA.

In 1902, four scientific expeditions are in progress:

  • Otto Nordenskj÷ld with ANTARCTIC

  • Scott with DISCOVERY


  • Eric von Drygalski with GAUSS

  • William Bruce with SCOTIA 


Charcot decides to finance on his own funds the building of a ship with oak hull, 150 feet  long: the FRANšAIS, rigged as a three-masted schooner, equipped of an auxiliary engine of 125 hp. Helped by Gerlache, he makes reinforce the bow and the hull.

In February 1904, Charcot and the crew of Franšais rejoin the South-West of South Shetlands; at beginning of March, the expedition settles down in a bay of Wandell island to winter going 1 degree over the southest point sailed by Nordenskj÷ld. During wintering, when temperature goes to -39░, the expedition studies the atmospheric electricity, the sea streams, and also sea animals and birds. On Christmas day, the Franšais escapes from the ice and reaches on 29 March Buenos Aires where the ship is sold.

The trip of Charcot between Argentina and Graham Land (zoom)

The return of Charcot is a success and will allow him to get credits for a new expedition.
For this purpose, a new ship is launched at St Malo on 18 May 1908 : POURQUOI-PAS ? is a 445 tons three-masted barque with an auxiliary engine with a reinforced hull. 22 crew take place on board.
On 15 August 1908, POURQUOI-PAS ? leaves Le Havre and sails to Graham land, then Adela´de island and  Alexander I Land. Charcot re-discovers Peter I ,  named by Bellingshausen in 1820.
After having sailed over 70░ South and discovred new coasts, Charcot comes back to Rouen in June 1910.
Albert I, Prince of Monaco, sponsored Charcot expedition on Pourquoi Pas ?

Aged of 67, Charcot wil leave again with POURQUOI-PAS ? in 1933 to install an ethnographic mission in Greenland, with Paul-Emile Victor as leader. He will come back next year. 

On 14 July 1936, Charcot and POURQUOI-PAS ? leave St Malo for Eastern Greenland. POURQUOI-PAS ? meet a storm off Island, and wrecks on 16 September 1936. Amongst 40 crew, a single one will survive.

To be read 
Biography of Charcot:
My file dedicated to the ships of French Antarctic including LE FRANăAIS


Click below for the pages list 


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