The Charcot Legacy

The Sudurnes Science and Learning Center
The Sudurnes Science and Learning Center

That the French marine research institute Ifremer named their new research ship Pourquois-Pas? speaks to the importance of Charcot in the development of marine sciences.

In the Sudurnes Science and Learning Center, there is a permanent exhibit in remembrance of Charcot and his indefatigable thirst for knowledge called “The Attraction of The Poles”. At the center both the historical exhibit and the ongoing scientific research inspire and expand new understanding of marine biology in the spirit of Jean-Baptiste Charcot and his crew, all of whom laid their lives on the line for the betterment of science.

The mess and some tableaus of Charcot’s life onboard
The mess and some tableaus of Charcot’s life onboard
Portrait of Charcot and a model of Pourquois-Pas?
Portrait of Charcot and a model of Pourquois-Pas?

Attraction of The Poles
The University of Iceland Research Station at Sudurnes, in cooperation with the town of Sandgerði and other contributors, manages the permanent exhibit “Attraction of The Poles” at the Sudurnes Science and Learning Center. The exhibit is housed in two rooms set up to resemble the bridge and cabin of a ship from Charcot’s time. It was opened on February 25, 2007. The show illuminates the life and work of this great man. All effort was made to recapture the wonderful ambiance that would have been experienced onboard the research ship in those days. Guests should feel transported back in time to the cabin of the Pourquois-Pas? The exhibit is set up for all ages and there is a wide range of educational material there to enjoy in written form, in pictures, video, and artifacts all aiming to bring Charcot’s life and work back to life. In the first months after the exhibit opened many interesting artifacts were loaned by the Musée de la Marine in Paris, including a placard from the deck of the Pourquois-Pas? with the motto of the French navy, “Honneur et Patrie” (honor and Fatherland).

Michel Rocard (second from left), former prime minister of France and the Polare Embassador to the President examine the exhibit.
Michel Rocard (second from left), former prime minister of France and the Polare Embassador to the President examine the exhibit.

Charcot’s granddaughter, Anne-Marie Vallin-Charcot, has contributed to the exhibit in important ways. For instance, she has given personal possessions and papers of her grandfather’s that have never before been shown anywhere publicly. In addition, the District Museums of Garður and Suðurnes and other bodies have contributed artifacts to the exhibit. Since the opening, some interesting contributions have been made that enrich the museum for our guests. Some examples are: a deckhand’s uniform, a model of the ship, a kayak Charcot received as a gift, and both a portrait and a bas-relief of him.

The designer of the exhibit is Árni Páll Jóhannsson, construction is by Gagarín ehf., cabinetry was made by Potemkin Hönnun ehf., Róbert Guillemette managed the graphic design and organization of the space, and the textual information was written by Friðrik Rafnsson. Reynir Sveinsson oversaw on-site construction. Project managers were Jörundur Svavarsson and Friðrik Rafnsson. The exhibition was sponsored by HS Veitur HF, Sparissjóðurinn Keflavík, the town of Sandgerði, and the University of Iceland.

This exhibit is a beautifully built homage to an intrepid polar explorer, expedition leader, and doctor who is also somewhat of a personification of the enduring friendship between Icelanders and the French.
The exhibit is housed at the Sudurnes Science and Learning Center, Garðvegi 1, Sandgerði.

Opening hours
1 May–30 September
Monday–Friday: 10:00–16:00
Saturday and Sunday: 13:00–17:00
Flexible opening hours are available for groups.

1 October– 30 April
Monday–Friday: 10:00–14:00
Flexible opening hours are available for groups.
For more detailed information call 354-4237551 or email: thekkingarsetur@thekkingarsetur.is