Luc Hardy, the French Explorer Confined in Connecticut

Breton-born Luc Hardy is an entrepreneur, environmentalist, documentary filmmaker, and photographer. To date, he has walked nearly 125 miles to the North Pole, climbed the highest mountain in Antarctica, and used a bathyscaphe – a self-propelled submersible – to explore the seabed off the island of Klein Curaçao in the Caribbean. Confined at his home in Greenwich, Connecticut, he looks back on these extraordinary adventures.
At the North Pole, 2011. © Courtesy of Luc Hardy

France-Amérique: How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected you?

Luc Hardy: I haven’t spent more than two weeks at home for the last fifteen years! I was supposed to be part of an expedition in March with a diver and coral expert from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. to prepare a documentary about Panama. The country is the size of Ireland but has more biodiversity than the United States. I had then planned to sail from Trinidad and Tobago to Guyana to investigate sargassum, a genus of brown, toxic algae that have invaded beaches in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and Africa. They pose a real public health risk. This project has been postponed until July, but my trip to Greenland in August will go ahead as planned. The American explorer Justin Fornal and I are preparing a swim from the village of Qaanaaq to the Nunavut territory in Canada to raise awareness about the melting icecaps.

During your many expeditions, have you ever been confined for an extended period of time?

I spent six weeks in my cabin aboard a sailing boat in the Antarctic in 2014, but it was voluntary! A hundred years after the original events, I retraced the route of British explorer Ernest Shackleton [see trailer below], who became trapped in the ice during his attempt to cross the South Pole. And in 2003, after returning from Mount Vinson, the highest point in Antarctica, the plane that was supposed to retrieve us was grounded because of bad weather. We spent nine days in a tent in the middle of nowhere…

What are you doing with your time while you wait for the lockdown to end?

I am coproducing a documentary about a Paraguayan tribe struggling against deforestation, Memory from the Forest, which should be presented at the Toronto or Venice film festival in September. I also have daily Skype meetings with scientists, video production companies, and my adventurer friends to prepare future projects, including an investigation into the cloning of polo horses in Argentina. I am also taking the time to read. I have finished the latest book by explorer and writer Sylvain Tesson, The Snow Leopard. I have also read The Career of a Sailor by Prince Albert I of Monaco – the language is so rich, much like tales by other early 20th-century explorers – and Algues vertes, l’histoire interdite, an investigative graphic novel about the algae polluting the Breton coastline.

What advice would you give our readers during this difficult time?

Meditate. Ten or twenty minutes a day is enough. You don’t need to do it for hours. Download an app like Waking Up on your smartphone and start straight away. Meditation has helped me get through situations that were far more challenging than spending three months at home in Connecticut!