The world of the sea has known great Saint-Malo sailors. Impossible to name them all. But we will pay tribute to Jacques Cartier, Marion-Dufresne, La Motte-Duportail… In the 20th century, Commander Jean-Baptiste Charcot won the prize. Son of a known neurologist from La Salpétrière, he was born in Neuilly. But very quickly, he felt the call of the sea, despite good medical studies and a job as chef at the…Salpetriere.
In 1901, young Charcot discovered Shetland, the Hebrides, the Faroe Islands and Greenland. In 1902, he obtained money to discover the “ice princess” on board the Frenchman and with four sailors. In the middle of the icebergs, he collects samples, takes notes, quickly welcomed by the scientific world.
Later, between 1908 and 1910, the commander went on an expedition to the French Antarctic where he gave the name of his wife to a gulf and that of his father to an unknown land. On his return, the polar gentleman (as the English call him) became the pioneer of French oceanographic science.
Before the war, Charcot increased his travels, but the world conflict stopped his nautical wanderings. He is asked to swoop down on the German “sharks” like a true Saint-Malo corsair. In 1919, finally, he finds his Why-Pas for explorations in the Bay of Biscay. Between 1922 and 1931, he carried out numerous missions in the Irish Sea, Greenland and Jameson Land (eastern Greenland.
In 1936, the adventurer left Saint-Malo on July 15, after a last greeting at his house in la Passagère. He is making his last trip. In September, his boat ran aground on the reef at Akranes Point, not far from Reykjanes Point. Only Le Gonidec survived the tragedy. “My poor children,” the commander shouted to his sailors. Since then, a memorial honors this great man, at the foot of the Solidor tower. This monument is composed of a sculpture offered by the Republic of Iceland in 1966 and a stele in 3 paintings.
Charcot Memorial, Saint-Servan. To get there: line 2, town hall stop. A stone’s throw away: Below the path, the town of Aleth, in front of the marina of Bas-Sablons, a monument was erected in 1986, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the disappearance at sea of Commander Jean- Baptiste Charcot