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Gombessa Expeditions

Laurent Ballesta's Gombessa project focuses on studying some of the rarest, most elusive marine creatures and phenomena on Earth. Ballesta and his team use state-of-the-art closed-circuit rebreather diving techniques to reach extreme depths and bring back unique scientific data, photographs, and videos. Their activities are consistently marked by triple challenges of a technical, scientific and artistic nature. To date, there have been five Gombessa expeditions, all underwritten by Blancpain.

Gombessa VI

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 meters.

Gombessa V

The objective of the Gombessa V Expedition is to study, photograph, and present to the public little known areas in the Mediterranean Sea. As these biodiversity hotspots are found at great depths for scuba divers – between 60 and 120m – and are worth exploration without time constraints, the Gombessa team has developed a world-first method. 

Gombessa IV

In 2017, the Gombessa IV expedition travelled to the southern pass of Fakarava atoll, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in French Polynesia, in order to study the hunting behavior of an estimated 700 gray reef sharks. In addition to Blancpain’s regular support, this fourth mission benefited from a supplementary 250,000 euro donation stemming from the sale of the first BOC (Blancpain Ocean Commitment) limited-edition watch. Ongoing analysis of the scientific data in several research centers could well reveal for the first time a collaborative behavior among the individuals of this species that appear to hunt in packs. Further to this expedition, a documentary produced by the ARTE television channel, a book written by Laurent Ballesta, and a photography exhibition were unveiled in early 2018.

Gombessa III

For their third Gombessa expedition, Laurent Ballesta and Blancpain went to Antarctica in 2015 to conduct a pioneering exploratory, diving and photographic mission. This expedition was part of a wider meta-project initiated by movie director Luc Jacquet (who won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2006 with "March of the Penguins") to measure the impact of global warming in this polar region, and to capture the attention of the general public. It was the first time that a team of technical divers has been able to go beneath the sea ice in this region. Each of the dives, never previously undertaken, represented an achievement on both human and technical levels, and delivered the very first naturalist images of Antarctica's deep-sea ecosystems.

Gombessa II

Gombessa II "The Grouper Mystery" took place at the South pass of the Fakarava atoll, in the Tuamotu Archipelago in French Polynesia. The heart of the mission was to shed light on the enigmatic aggregation of the marbled groupers of the Pacific and illustrate how their spawning plays a key role in the balance of the lagoon ecosystem. Thousands of them somehow hear a deep call once a year on full moon, to come aggregate and mate for extremely brief and spectacular moment at Fakarava's South pass only.

Gombessa I

In 2013, Laurent Ballesta, equipped with a Blancpain Fifty Fathoms timepiece on his wrist and accompanied by specially trained divers and researchers from the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, together with ten scientists from the Museum of National History and from the CNRS, the French National Research Institute, all left for South Africa to undergo 40 days of deep water diving to meet with legendary bottom-dwelling sea creature, the cœlacanth. Portrayed as a crucial link between fish and land animals, the cœlacanth is extremely rare and lives at a depth of over 100 metres, which explains why only a very few direct sightings have been witnessed until now.