As founding partner of the Gombessa expeditions, Blancpain has supported the sixth odyssey of diver, biologist and underwater photographer Laurent Ballesta. Entitled "Mission Cap Corse", Gombessa VI aims to unravel the mystery of the "coral rings" that cover the Mediterranean off the coast of Cap Corse, at a depth of 100 metres. On Tuesday, July 20th, the expedition team resurfaced after 20 days in the waters of the Ligurian Sea. The divers disembarked in Monaco, where they were given an emotional welcome by Marc A. Hayek, President & CEO of Blancpain.
In 2011, during a mapping campaign conducted off the coast of Cap Corse by IFREMER (French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea), a thousand strange and perfectly circular formations, regularly outlined on the seabed between 115 and 140 m, appear on the monitoring screens. Never explored, these immense coralligenous atolls (each one 30 m in diameter) are a great mystery. What is their origin? What are the reasons for their presence in the Mediterranean?
To provide answers to these questions – and many more – Laurent Ballesta and three divers from the Gombessa team boarded the now famous Bathyale Station, set up on the barge of the INPP (National Institute of Professional Diving) on July 1st, 2021. During Gombessa V in 2019, for the first time it enabled them to associate saturation diving with recreational deep diving using closed circuit rebreathers. Thanks to this technique, this year the aquanauts were able to explore the great depths of the Cap Corse and Agriate Marine Natural Park during very long dives over a 20-day period, punctuated by numerous research protocols. Over and above the scientific aspect, this expedition came with a major physiological challenge, as the four comrades stayed in a five square-metre pressurised chamber – an extreme environment for humans. Laurent Ballesta brought back unprecedented images from his journey to discover the "coral rings" of the Mediterranean. The mission will eventually confirm or refute the hypothesis that the formation of these curious aggregates is linked to gas emissions or freshwater springs.