“Deepsea Under The Pole by Rolex” was a pioneering expedition undertaken in 2010 to learn more about the submerged side of the Arctic. During a combination of ski trekking and scuba diving in one of the toughest climates on the planet, the eight expedition members successfully conducted scientific experiments. Did watches accompany them? Five Rolex Oyster Perpetual Deepsea models did.
Water resistant to a crushing depth of 3,900 meters or 12,800 feet, the Deepsea is the most robust watch that Rolex has ever made commercially available. In production to date, the Deepsea measures 44 millimeters wide, making it all the more an outstanding reference among Rolex collections.
The expedition took Ghislain Bardout and his team to the North Pole – then lowered them through a metre of ice into freezing water and under the polar ice cap. It all began as a daydream in the mind of a 15-year-old French schoolboy. Curiously, he searched for underwater photographs of the Pole, but there were none: no one had ever dived under the ice to take them. Fifteen years on, he understood why.
It took nearly three years of tireless planning, fundraising, research, logistical preparation and physical and mental training just to get the expedition to its start.
Such a monumental undertaking on its own that Bardout permitted himself a moment of exultation after the eight-person team was dropped off near the Pole on 26 March 2010.
“Standing there, watching the plane take off, it felt like expedition number one had just ended,” he recalls. “Getting there was a real achievement.”
Next was a two-month, 800-kilometre (497-mile) ski trek to Ellesmere Island on the moving polar ice floe, with frequent stops to scuba dive beneath it. The purpose of those dives was documentation and the team would make unprecedented underwater images of the vanishing polar ice cap, along with hundreds of scientific observations related to human physiology and global climate change. Yet after arriving at 89°19’ North, Bardout realized that the team’s biggest, and most immediate, challenge would be adapting to the polar environment.
To make matters worse, their equipment began to break almost immediately, as the intense cold caused metal to snap, plastic to shatter and the simplest mechanism to malfunction. Equipment battle-tested on the sea ice of northern Finland turned as brittle as glass at the North Pole.
After every dive, it took hours to clear the ice off the regulators, cameras and other underwater gear, and even longer to repair the damaged equipment.
“The only diving instruments which performed all the time”, she adds, “were their Rolex watches – the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Deepsea.“
“Today we see pictures of open water at the North Pole in early spring and polar bears swimming very long distances, and that’s not normal. The ice cap is melting right before our eyes and it isn’t recovering.” — adds Ghislain Bardout.
“The submarine sea ice environment is almost completely unknown,” says Bardout, explaining his passion for the frozen underbelly of the Arctic. “Relatively few images of it exist in the public domain and most of them were taken in the same basic place, within easy striking distance of logistics bases with airfields. But the ice is different everywhere you go in the Arctic and the submarine landscape varies enormously from place to place. We just want to show the beauty of this vanishing world.”
Rolex continues to support bold and daring undertakings in the name of science and the preservation of our Planet, helping to make it: Perpetual.