Reporter, author, director and columnist Stéphane Dugast joined the Indian Ocean expedition in the Seychelles with photographer Nicolas Mathys, more precisely in Aldabra where he accompanied H.S.H Prince Albert II of Monaco’s delegation during its visit to the atoll. Impressions of a sailor, “civvy” and reporter for Cols Bleus, the newspaper of the French Navy.
The term “civvy” is a pejorative term for “anyone not wearing a military uniform“. In short, the guys in the French Navy call everything that is not military, and that is foreign to them, “civvy”. A funny nickname that sticks to me because I was a “pekin” for 17 years as a reporter for Cols Bleus, the newspaper of the French Navy since 1945. With pen and notebook in my pocket, I have embarked many times on “grey ships” (as they call them) of all sizes. Aircraft carrier R91 “Charles-de-Gaulle”, helicopter carrier R97 “La Jeanne d’Arc” (a ship in which H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco embarked as a midshipman in the early 1980s), anti-submarine frigates, anti-aircraft frigates, stealth frigates, patrol boats and even nuclear attack submarines or schooners… I put my reporter’s bag down on all of these ships to experience in situ more or less peaceful expeditions. I got a taste of life on board, of distant ports and of the most exotic ports of call. Above all, I have learned to tell the story of the people of the sea and their daily life with words and images. I love life on board, the one that consists in leaving the land and then having to tame the first days of rolling and pitching. I like to smell the diesel smells as much as the sea air. I like this time that passes differently, punctuated here by dives, dredging, trawling, launching of the rosette or the ROV. For a week, I have been on board the S.A. Aghulas II with 80 scientists, 3 artists, 3 filmmakers and about 40 sailors, to experience the “Indian Ocean” oceanographic campaign orchestrated by Monaco Explorations. It must be said that with my fellow traveler Mathys, I have taken my marks. I like to go up and down the stairs from morning to evening (real sailors say “escapes”). I like to go as soon as possible to deck 3 at the stern to watch the miraculous fish come up as the researchers hope. I like to attend the evening briefing, a real play, sometimes comical or tragic. I also like the meals at fixed times in the South African style, the flag of this proud ship. Most of all, I like to go to deck number 9 above the navigation bridge when the sun is about to set. I love this moment when the sun disappears from the horizon, which is often masked here by a forest of grey-blue clouds. I like to see the sky blazing and the darkness enveloping us, the promise of a new dawn, of a new day at sea. These moments make me philosophical and dreamy. I like to imagine the S.A. Aghulas II seen from a satellite. On this globe, we are only a tiny point lost in the immensity of the ocean, with under our bow a sea grass as vast as Switzerland. So there are still mare incognitae to explore in 2022. 24 years ago, I promised myself to be a Philéas Fogg, a curious and free traveler. I kept my promise! How pretty the sea can be for a “strange” civvy…
Reporter, author, director and columnist, Stéphane Dugast has been multiplying his investigations and filming in all latitudes since 2000, with a pronounced taste for wild worlds and all kinds of embarkations. www.stephanedugast.com