Yvon Balut

2005 Edward A. Flinn III Award Winner

Yvon Balut received the Edward A. Flinn III Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Ocean Sciences and Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology Reception, which was held on 5 December 2005 in San Francisco, Calif. The award honors individuals who personify the Union’s motto of “unselfish cooperation in research” through their facilitating, coordinating, and implementing of activities.


We nominated Yvon Balut for the Edward A. Flinn III Award because he exemplifies all the qualities of “unselfish cooperation in research” through facilitating, coordinating and implementing of research activities, mostly in paleoceanography and the study of Quaternary climate change.

Yvon Balut has exceptional qualities. He is an engineer who, over the years, developed and perfected the now well known Calypso corer, which can return undisturbed sediments from the deep ocean. The record length of recovery is now 64 meters for a continuous core. This is a feat that no oceanographic institution has been able to match. In order to develop this corer, Balut has gained an excellent knowledge of coring materials, geological material to be recovered from the ocean floor and, at times, from great depths. Over the years, Balut participated in all marine coring operations and has always taken the leading role of directing the coring preparations and operations.

Everyone who has been at sea with Yvon Balut has learned to appreciate his engineering skills, but more importantly, the patience with which he has handled the many difficulties one has to frequently face at sea. Yvon Balut is always eager to please the researchers and ensures that they eventually obtain the best possible material for study. Yvon Balut spends numerous days at sea; on average, well over 200 days a year, to the service of science and with the commitment of continuously improving the technology he has designed. Since 1993, he has conducted over 50 voyages at sea.

The foresight of Balut to design and develop the Calypso corer required an extremely long research vessel with a special deck to deploy/offload and return the corer on the ship. It is of no surprise, therefore, to learn that Balut took the initiative to design the replacement for the original Marion Dufresne vessel, which is called Marion Dufresne II, now the pride of the French Polar Institute. The second role of the Marion Dufresne II is to transport, four times a year, personnel and equipment between the French territorial islands in the Indian Ocean under the auspices of the French Overseas Administration. Once again, it is well known that Balut has juggled the time spent in the Indian Ocean in order to permit the vessel to conduct research, mostly through coring, in all the world’s oceans. In a number of ways, Balut definitely demonstrated a strong will in helping the scientific community and giving it much priority over other tasks to be performed by the vessel.

The creation of the IMAGES (International Marine Past Global Changes Study) program, part of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program and PAGES (Past Global Changes), that has enabled the international scientific community to join efforts in order to study environmental changes recorded in the oceans, often at a very high resolution, could not have been envisaged without the contribution of Yvon Balut in a number of ways. Quaternary science has taken a large step forward, thanks to Yvon Balut.

—PATRICK DE DEKKER Australian National University, Canberra


Mr. President, dear colleagues:

First, I would like to thank all of you for your presence. This is indeed a great honor for me to receive this award from such a prestigious scientific union. I would like to thank Tom [Note to readers: Patrick De Deckker wrote the above citation but because he could not attend the event it was presented by Tom Pedersen] for this very flattering speech summarizing my activities.

However, I would like to say that my activities toward marine science, and paleoclimatology in particular, are not only of my own. They originate from a permanent collaboration between researchers whom I met with pleasure in laboratories and, especially, by working with them on board the Marion Dufresne II. I would like to nominate here the initiator of the IMAGES program, Nick Pisias, Nick Shackleton, Laurent Labeyrie, and Michael Sarnthein as a major director of the program.

The idea of developing a new generation of heavy and extremely long corers suitable for paleoclimate research programs emanates from these discussions carried out while at sea with the researchers. Then came the concept of building the Marion Dufresne II, which is especially adapted to perform these coring tasks and to embark significantly large research teams while enjoying typical French comfort.

I would like to draw your attention to two very important points: The Marion Dufresne II would not exist without the constant support of the directors of the French Polar Institute, originally set to focus on the polar areas. These people helped me a lot and financially supported the new focus in oceanography.

The second remark is more personal and concerns my relations with researchers. I did sail on board the Marion Dufresne II all over the world, between the Arctic and Antarctic, as well as all along the east and west coasts of the United States. These contacts proved very important for me.

The longest core so far recovered is still 65.5 meters (a world record) and took place in the Gulf of California. I would even say that the most original core record (but not the easiest one to achieve) is, in my opinion, held by the U.S. Geological Survey in the Chesapeake Bay with only one meter of water under the ship’s hull.

I particularly enjoy working with researchers from all over the world, and this has provided me with great pleasure and much satisfaction. I can honestly say that I have many great friends worldwide.

It has been a privilege to contribute much toward the progress of marine and paleoclimate science through those precious friendships.

Thank you, Mr. President, thank you to the AGU selection committee, and thank you to all of you for your kindness.

—YVON BALUT, French Polar Institute, Plouzané, France