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Seeking the last lost worlds

The adventurer Evrard Wendenbaum set out on a series of scientific expeditions to discover the last unexplored areas on the planet. His project called "Lost Worlds" aims to gain knowledge of the last remaining biological treasures so they can be protected before it's too late. The Petzl Foundation is providing financial support for this project which brings together scientific research and conservation of the environment.

JANUARY 2015 • Updated in May 2017 

Lost Worlds © Evrard Wendenbaum

  • Project partner: Naturevolution association / www.naturevolution.org and www.lost-worlds.org
  • Country: Indonesia, Asia - Greenland, Europe
  • Project type: Preservation of the environment
  • Budget: € 10,000 in 2016, € 30,000 since 2014. Additional funding has been planned for 2017

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An experienced climber and mountaineer, Evrard Wendenbaum has made a number of documentaries about ascents in some of the most inaccessible mountain ranges on the planet. .
Always attentive to the beauty and fragility of the places he visits, Evrard's work focuses on the thousands of plant and animal species that survive in spite of the constant threats posed by human activity.

Since 2007, with the support of the Petzl Foundation, he has set up several scientific expeditions into the Makay mountain range in south-west Madagascar. In total, almost 80 new species and 500 cave paintings have been identified. In December 2014, the Makay was given temporary protection status by the Madagascar Forest and Environment Ministry.

Encouraged by the success of the Makay project, Evrard Wedenbaum now wants to continue exploring these "lost worlds", to better understand and protect them.

One or two scientific expeditions will be organized each year, to explore spectacular and often inhospitable natural environments. Often located in tropical karst regions, these sites have been preserved from environmental deterioration and have great potential for natural and archaeological discoveries.

2016: expedition to the Scoresby Sund, a little-known area of Greenland

After several explorations carried out in a tropical environment, Naturevolution conducted a scientific mission in the Arctic region during the summer of 2016 to explore the Scoresby Sundon the east coast of Greenland.

Descente d’une bédière

Descent of a glacial torrent in the heart of the Edward Bailey glacier, in Greenland.

To the east of Greenland, the Scoresby Sund Fjord is shaped by gigantic glaciers, dotted with icebergs and populated by rare fauna, whose icon is the mysterious narwhal. Beyond the Arctic Circle, this wild and isolated territory is difficult to access. The explorer, Evrard Wendenbaum, founder of Naturevolution, thinks it is the ideal place to lead an adventurous expedition, combining scientific research, mountaineering and ice diving.

Expédition au Scoresby Sund, paysage
Expédition au Scoresby Sund, campement
Expédition au Scoresby Sund, à l'intérieur d'un glacier

In the summer of 2016, supervised by difficult access specialists, environmental scientists explored and studied this lost world. On land, biologists attempted to identify and track populations of arctic wolves, muskoxen, birds and other cetaceans.

At sea, scientists from the French Institute of Earth Sciences, Eric Larose and Agnes Helmstetter, sought to understand how icebergs detach themselves from glaciers. With the help of mountaineers, they placed seismic sensors on the surface of icebergs to detect and analyze micro-seismic activity. Using a network of cameras and GPS that measure the speed of glacier travel, their data will identify possible signals that predict the breaking up of a glacier. In addition, mills on huge glaciers were explored by geophysicists. This was a unique experience for Eric Larose: "From the scientific point of view, these gigantic mills provided us with the perfect opportunity to study the way in which water circulates inside a glacier. We were able to observe the forces of nature in action. "

The data gathered during this exploration will provide a better understanding of the exceptional but fragile biodiversity of Scoresby Sund. Researchers and explorers hope to convince the international community of the need to preserve this lost world, which is rich in minerals and is now accessible due to increasing ice melt.

Éric Larose, geophysicist:

Éric Larose is about to place seismic sensors on an iceberg.

"Apart from a few mountaineers and Inuit hunters, few adventurers have been able to observe and explore this bleak yet magical region. Time is a scientist’s most valuable asset. Discovering a fossilized glacier hidden under a gigantic sandy beach, listening attentively to the whispers of the glacier and understanding the life of its torrents, observing wild geese and discovering the route taken by bird flu – all these things require time. We need to allow ourselves the time to discover the unexpected and to explore the source of our inspiration and our drive to innovate. "

Descente en rappel dans un des moulins gigantesques du glacier Edward Bailey, à plus de trente mètres de profondeur.




2014: a first scientific expedition on the unexplored Matarombeo massif, on Sulawesi island, Indonesia

Rafting sur la rivière Lindu © Evrard WendenbaumRéseau souterrain de Matarombeo © Lost Worlds
The scientists gained access to the heart of the karst range by the Lindu river, which flows underground through the Matarombeo.

In October 2014, the Lost Worlds project began with the exploration of the Matarombeo mountain range, on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. Five scientists, accompanied by Evrard and his team, explored this challenging terrain which is home to a particularly dense tropical forest.

This first expedition led to the discovery of ancient rock paintings and pottery which are still being dated. Several rare species were observed in the wild, such as the Hydrosaurus lizard, as well as the anoa, the smallest bovine in the world.

Charcoal drawing © Lost Worlds / The Hydrosaurus, endemic lizard of Sulawesi © Evrard Wendenbaum
Charcoal drawing representing men in a canoe. The Hydrosaurus, endemic lizard of Sulawesi, can run on water over several meters.

A series of documentary films will be made about these expeditions for public viewing. Evrard Wendenbaum will also give talks when he returns from his expeditions.




Updated in May 2017 


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