On board the Marion Dufresne

The French Oceanographic research vessel Marion Dufresne arrived into Reunion and we were able to get on board for a tour. The ship is registered in Marseilles, but operarates from Reunion, serving the French Southern Indian Ocean and Antarctic holdings.

Trip highlights from October 4th follow. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps

Marion Dufresne

The Marion Dufresne was built for the extreme weather conditions of the Southern Indian Ocean, where 12-15 meter waves are common. And it was incredibly well-rigged, with several impressive cranes fore and aft.

The Marion Dufresne appeared to be running tours, so we went over to find out if we could get aboard. The tours were popular and completely booked up in advance, with large crowds waiting their turn to board. Fortunately there were several no-shows, and we were able to get a stand-by slot on one of the tours.
Dining room

The ship can carry up to 100 passengers, with 6 officers and 22 crew. It was recently renovated and looked beautiful inside, closer to a cruise ship than a research vessel. This is looking into the dining room, which can seat up to 58 people in two sittings. In addition to research and support work for the French territories, the Marion Dufresne also carries eco-tourists. Although the fare for the month-long trip starts at $9,000USD per person, the trip is apparently very popular and tickets are sold out three years in advance.

The galley on the Marion Dufresne is almost as beautiful as the dining room. We’re told the food on-board is excellent, with meals accompanied by high-quality French wine.
Kerguelen Islands

The French Southern Indian Ocean holdings include the Kerguelen Islands, the St. Paul and Amsterdam islands and the Crozet Islands. All are roughly south of Reunion between latitude 37 and 50. This chart on the wall shows the Kerguelen Islands. They look like wonderful cruising territory–too bad they’re so remote.

The tour was all in French, but we could understand some and one of the other participants spoke English and interpreted for us.

Reunion-based Helilagon provides the ship’s Eurocopter.
Life boat

One of the ship’s 16-person lifeboats was open for viewing. We’ve never seen the inside of one, and hopefully never will need to.
Research facilities

The ship had two large research facilities that looked capable of supporting several dozen researchers.

The bridge was huge, with excellent visibility.

The helm is a Raytheon ComPilot 20. The ship has two electric propulsion motors, 2,650 kilowatts each on two shafts, and a 750 kilowatt bow thruster.

On this chart of the Indian Ocean at the bridge, the area north of Madagascar was annotated with crosshatches and labelled “High Risk Area”. And a large rectangle was drawn in the area south and east of Madascar and labelled as the Malaysian Airline search area. We asked one of the bridge crew how they managed the high risk area. They said they mostly avoided the area, and brought French military on-board if they had to go there. And the airline search area was annotated as a reminder to look for debris to help the search.

The ship’s hold viewed from the bridge. It’s a long way down.

The view to the marina from the bridge of the Marion Dufresne. Several more international pleasure craft arrived over the past few days and the marina is starting to fill up. Dirona is just visible at the left of the picture. We’re the only power boat in the marina except for some small local craft at the far left.

Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://mvdirona.com/maps.


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10 comments on “On board the Marion Dufresne
  1. Brian says:

    Marion Dufresne. I found a site which may be the management of Marion Dufresne, but unsure.
    I recently found out about the ship and its quarterly journeys to the remote French islands in the South Indian Ocean. Need to find out how to secure a ticket for December or January 2025.
    It sails from reunion island, but how do I get a ticket??

    • MVDirona says:


      We toured the Marion Dufresne while it was in port in Reunion, but didn’t look into booking a trip. Other blog readers have suggested the site taaf.fr.

      Good luck,

  2. Michael says:

    I love that wonderful vessel. I was incredibly fortunate to spend several weeks on her in January 1997, she took us from Reunion to Heard Island (53S 73E) where the chopper dumped the 20 of us and our many tons of “stuff” (50 flights). Marion Dufresne then sailed for Amsterdam & St Paul, leaving us alone with the millions of penguins and hundreds of elephant seals (etc.) for almost 3 weeks. After retrieving us we were treated to a classic southern-ocean gale (50-55kt, 30 foot seas) for most of the 24-hour passage to Kerguelen. Supper time was one of the most memorable hours of my life, with a score or 2 of French military men who had just finished their compulsory year tour of duty on Crozet, Kerguelen, and Amsterdam … tables, chairs, supper, red wine flying everywhere and the guys breaking into a French sailing ditty every time a large wave struck MD’s port quarter. Sadly our videographer was in his rack seasick so we have no recording of it. Thanks for the photos, they bring back some great memories.

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