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Researches about The Arctic, the world of polar bears, bring me to read the website of Frédéric and Pierre Vernay,  who are specialists and  have a passion fo the Artic world around their project " Polar Lys".

After some exchanges of mails, Frédéric accepted with much simplicity and kindness to answer to my questions. Here is his interview. A big thank to him.

© Frédéric Vernay
© Frédéric and the cute Fredon

You are with your brother Pierre, Arctic specialists, since 20 years. How did your passion is born ?
What were your motivations ?

© Pierre Vernay


Pierre was always attracted by the great landscapes. yet, when he was an adolescent, he started with friends to make hikes in France, then in Germany, Sweden and Norway and finally two times in Spitzberg, with his childhood friend, Jean-Yves Lapaix.

I joined them in 1984 for a wintered hike in Spitzberg. This was for me a true unexpected  event and since, Pierre and I (often with Jean -Yves), we often went to Arctic areas.

At the beginning, our motivations were only the passion for the great spaces, and the taste for the extreme adventures. But, day after day, we were passionned by the polar history, the Inuit culture, the Arctic fauna and flora and of course the protection of the environment through our testimonies.

Your brother is a photographer. What's your role ? How are you complementary ?
Is it for you a job or a passion ?

I consider that my brother is a good photographer. It's a passion since he was young. He is liable to stay many hours in front of the earth of a fox.

As far as I am concerned, I make films. For each expedition, we make a pictures reporting but also a film that we can project in hospitals or in schools.

I am in charge of computing and I write every day one report on our website " Polar Lys" and answer the questions.


© Young foxes photographied by Pierre during an expedition

You are both at the origin of Polar Lys project. Can you speak about this project ? What was the main reason of it ?

© Polar Lys


Polar Lys means polar light in norvegian. It's the name of our association.

The reason is to make known the polar areas and to defend the environment through our writings testimonies, our pictures and films.

What are the most beautiful memories of your expeditions ?

They are many. But some of them occur to my mind : to paddle with a shoal of narvals, a polar bear, belugas, to meet on horseback musk oxes, to part the Inuit's life.

© A polar bear photographied during one of our expeditions


Did you meet obstacles during your expeditions ? And if yes, how did you cope with ?

Of course ! We always meet obstacles and to resume the way we surmount them, I am going to tell you an anecdote.

In 1990, in the Canadian Arctic, we took with us two horses, Prunelle and Valentin. It was the first time because any horse went to Resolute Bay and everybody predicted us that it will be the death of the horses.

So, we had a big influence on our shoulders. The first days of the expedition were very disastrous.

The horses, disturbed by their new environment, did'nt want to move and it took us one week before to leave the village of Resolute Bay. We became the attraction of Resolute, as a polar collection of out-takes.

One Resolute's inhabitant told us "Hi guys, you have a good sense of humour ".

It's thnaks of that, we had the opportunity to make end to difficult situations, stepping back, laughing of our misadventure.

Then , the horses, began to work and we realized our project?

It's still today, one of our most beautiful expeditions.

© Polar Lys


The future of the Arctic, because of the climate warming is a serious subject of current events. What is your point of vew and is there a positive issue ?

I think that we don't have to give up to the pessimism.

If we say " anyhow we cna't change anything" it's the worst thing it can arrive because it's to lose in advance a fight we would have the opportunity to win.

Today, everybody realized this problem and the majority agree with a changing and it was not the case twenty years ago.

So, we have to keep hope and go on to work to protect the environment.

© Polar Lys


Can you speak about your meeting with polar bears.
I suppose that to see and photography them must represent an intense moment of emotion ?

© The polar bear which failed to devour Frédéric in 1999.


The meetings with polar bears are always a great adrenalin discharge, above all, since the 11th july 1999 ( see the logbook on Polar Lys website), when I nearly missed to be killed by a polar bear.

It's a fascinating animal, an Arctic commando which fight to kill its preys.

It's a tireless walker and swimmer. It can make a lot of kilometres when its locates one odour, with its sense of smell more developped than the best dog.

Then, when it sees its prey, it is liable to wait for a long time to make it forget and wait the best moment to kill it.

In 2005, for example, hopefully, we had a dog which was in guard, in front of our tent during our sleep, in a place where the bears were many , hungry and used their malice to surprise us.

I saw that your brother's book "Polar kayak" was prefaced by a great man , Paul Emile Victor. Did you meet him personaly ?

Yes, Pierre met him, but he was yet old and ill. He kept a strong memory of this meeting.

Through your brother's books and your common book " One year in Arctic" we can see that it's a great part of your life.
Do you think to pursuit your exhibitions ? Is there a so rich life after a so passionating life with fantastic adventures and unforgettable meetings ?

Well ! If we are always in a good health, we want to go on, because we  still have a lot of things to discover.

To answer with precision to your question, I am lucky to have a passionnating life out of these expeditions.

I think it's also the same thing for Pierre and Jean- Yves.

© Polar Lys

What are your projects for 2008 ? Will you go back to Arctic area ?

Yes. We we go back to the Canadian Arctic area at the North of the Island of Devon for a sea-kayak expedition and we hope to see a full sun eclipse.

Do you make conferences in schools ?

Sometimes, but we are not professionnal of adventure and the most difficult is to get away from our job.

I let you the last word - if you want to add something to this interview-
I thank you for giving me time and having testify on my website "Sur les pas des ours".

Well, it's always a real pleasure to exchange with persons who part same passions. A big cheer for your website, it's to consume without moderation by old and youngs.

If you want to know more about the different expeditions of Frédéric and his brother Pierre, go to their website Polar Lys, clicking here:

Creation date : 04/03/2008 : 19:10
Last update : 21/02/2012 : 19:42
Category : PORTRAITS - Frédéric VERNAY : his expeditions in ARCTIC ( March 2008)

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