Jean-François Pernette

1998 Laureate, Exploration
France, Born 1954

Project Goal

Explore one of the most inhospitable places on earth

Location: Chile

"Nobody has been caving there — in fact very few people have been to the island. It has so much potential for discovery."

Torrential rain and violent winds batter the remote Patagonian island of Madre de Dios, day in and day out. Yet not even one of the most hostile climates on earth — nor one of the most inhospitable landscapes — could deter Rolex Laureate Jean-François Pernette from attempting to uncover the island’s many secrets. In 2000, the world-renowned French speleologist led a multidisciplinary expedition to Chile’s Ultima Esperanza (Last Hope) province — where he made some unexpected and breathtaking discoveries.


separate cave systems mapped on the expedition


distance, in kilometres, of Pernette's expedition from Puerto Montt in central Chile to Madre de Dios


days Pernette spent on Madre de Dios


millimetres of erosion per century on the island of Madre de Dios

Other 1998 Laureates