Earth Observatory Blog
Profile Spotlight: Captain Victor Broi
As the captain of the R/V Marion Dufresne, Captain Victor Broi is new to research vessels, but that doesn’t mean the 57-year-old seaman (whose birthday is today) lacks experience. Though the MIRAGE is only his second voyage as the captain of the Marion Dufresne, Capt Broi has spent his entire career with CMA CGM, a French container transportation and shipping company that manages the Marion Dufresne, as well as one of the largest fleets of container ships in the world.
Prior to the Marion Dufresne, Capt Broi spent 15 years as the captain of three different container ships, ending that phase of his career as the captain of the CMA CGM Laperouse, which until recently was the largest container ship ever built, measuring 365 metres (m) in length, with a carrying capacity of a staggering 13,800 containers.
That’s quite a bit different from the cargo and length of the 120-m Marion Dufresne, but some aspects of Capt Broi’s work are similar. In particular, Capt Broi has experience sailing with passengers. “There were always between eight and 10 passengers on board,” Capt Broi said of his around-the-world container-ship voyages. “Generally, they were people who had just retired and had always dreamed of sailing around the world on a merchant ship rather than a cruise carrier. Some of them were writers, while others painted, but all liked a good discussion and wanted to learn about life on the vessel. They were very good company.”
Since taking the helm of the Marion Dufrense, Capt Broi has been especially impressed by its crew. “We have 48 seamen from France, Romania, and Madagascar. It’s always the same people coming back to work on the vessel, so the crew is very familiar with the ship.”
They’re also familiar with the crew of the Institut Polaire Francais Paul Emile Victor (IPEV), whose staff manages the scientific equipment aboard the Marion Dufresne and is the conduit between the MIRAGE scientists and Capt Broi’s seamen.
“We work very closely with the IPEV team,” Capt Broi said, “to give them what they need, when they need it. For example, if they need to put the magnetometer in the water, and it’s 2 o’clock in the morning, we say, ‘No problem.’” In fact, that exact scenario occurred just the other night after the Marion Dufresne left Sabang, Indonesia, where it had picked up eight Indonesian students and scientists.
For Capt Broi, that sort of can-do attitude is relatively simple compared to what he believes is his crew’s toughest task during the MIRAGE. “On this particular trip, the greatest challenge is for the chief cook to make good food for everybody,” he said with a gentle laugh. “It’s not always easy because we have Arabian people, Indian people, some are vegetarian, some don’t eat pork, and until tomorrow, some are observing Ramadan and fasting. For them,” he added, “we make a big breakfast at 5 o’clock in the morning. We try to do our best so that everyone is happy.”
As for Capt Broi, he’s genuinely interested in the work of the MIRAGE because he’s already a bit of an amateur student of geophysics, although the modest captain would almost certainly never make such a claim. “Six years ago, I went to Bali and Lombok,” he recalled. “I hiked to the top of Mount Rinjani, the famous volcano. Now, I’m not too far from that spot, and I will see what is happening under the ocean, in the ‘volcano’ under the sea, so to speak.”
To continue to follow the progress of MIRAGE, please check the EOS blog throughout the month of July, and spread the word using #MIRAGEcruise.
All photographs are taken by Ben Marks, unless otherwise stated.