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Next winter, the Artistes en Arctique project plans to create a cultural and artistic melting pot aboard Le Manguier to record life in Greenland before polar climates change beyond recognition.

Eleven artists from different climes will live together aboard Le Manguier, a former French Navy tug, on a three-month adventure starting in February 2017. This will be no Arctic pleasure cruise; the boat will be frozen in Greenland's coastal ice for the duration. Surrounded by the unfamiliar, omnipresent cold and dark, losing their bearings and discovering what life is all about when living at one with the environment is the only option.


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This is what the artists have to look forward to in a new project proposed by Le Bateau-Givre, a not-for-profit association. Conditions on board will be cramped. There is no running water, no internet, no telephone. Outside temperatures go as low as –40°C and getting to Aasiaat, the nearest town, means a 90-minute journey on foot over pack ice — not to mention the trip back.

Adventure doesn’t get any better than this! It is an adventure of the human spirit with a focus on learning to live together and help each other. It is also an opportunity to learn from and get to know the culture of a different people as they become immersed in their everyday way of life.


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An endangered culture and environment

But why Greenland, and why artists? Greenland is changing rapidly. And it is an undeniable fact that the ice is melting. In the near future, all this will be little more than a vague memory of a bygone era: the Polar ice, the flora and fauna of the Far North, and the Inuit people and their culture. So, witnessing the intricate reality of such captivating beauty becomes all the more urgent. Artistic engagement  — by adding a poetic, more emotional dimension to the overall endeavour — is one way to complement and enrich scientific research and awareness-raising on preservation efforts already made.

The creative work of these artists — writers, photographers, and others working in the plastic arts — their perspectives and the anticipated exchanges between them form part of a much larger canvas encompassing their encounters with ethnic Greenlanders. The outcome desired is a candid depiction bearing witness to their culture and environment before it disappears. In a second phase, these artistic testimonies will be transformed into a series of lectures, films and exhibitions, chiefly in the countries from which the artists are drawn.


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Once a tug in the French Navy

Why Le Manguier? Built in Lorient in 1968, this tug, once part of the French fleet, was purchased in 2002 by its current owner, Philippe Hercher, and repurposed as an expedition vessel. In 2009, it was refurbished to reduce CO2 emissions. Le Manguier logged over 75,000nm during its circumnavigation of the Arctic, and has been plying Greenland’s waters since 2015.

This is no ordinary boat; it is more a state of mind charged with the spirit of exploration and intense interest in things discovered, exchanged and shared. The hardy vessel and crew has played host to and befriended many of its 100+ passengers since refurbishment: students from Dillingham, Alaska and Corsica and Brittany, France; fishermen from Tunisia, Ireland, Alaska and Canada; artists, scientists, Orthodox pilgrims (on their way to Spruce Island in the Kodiak Archipelago in Alaska) and members of partner associations.

Meeting such a wide cross-section of society gave Le Bateau-Givre the idea to spearhead the Artistes en Arctique project. A crowd funding campaign is currently under way on kisskissbankbank. To contribute, go to

Adapted by Allison Wright


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Science et Environnement