Aqua Lung International, a wholly owned subsidiary of Air Liquide, will explore the wrecks of two frigates resting at the bottom of the Pacific.

The 2005 Vanikoro expedition consists of 120 members and is supported by the French Ministries of Defence, Culture and Research. The group will set out on their campaign of underwater archaeological exploration in April and May 2005.

The aim of the dive is to explore the wrecks of the two frigates of the explorer Jean-François de la Pérouse, lost in 1788 near the island of Vanikoro, in the Solomon Islands off New Guinea.

This is not the first time the wreck has attracted explorers. The vessel, which mysteriously disappeared with 220 sailors and scientists exploring the unknown region of the Pacific, was first visited in 2003, where many objects were unearthed and collected.

The 2005 programme will primarily involve diving to great depths in an underwater crevasse off the Vanikoro reef, where the wrecks lie. The expedition team will be based and taken to the area on the Jacques Cartier, a light transport vessel of the French Navy. The mission will not only benefit French cultural and scientific heritage, but also distribute medical aid to the inhabitants of the isolated islands.

Aqua Lung, who manufacture and sell diving equipment, will contribute to the mission by supplying personal diving equipment and assuming responsibility for forwarding all the underwater archaeological material found. The searches provide Aqua Lung with an ideal playground in which to prove the performance of their new Mistral regulator. The Mistral regulator has been purposely designed for photographers, biologists and archaeologists who dive, and especially for deep sea diving in optimum comfort.

Commenting on the up-coming exploration, Managing Director of Aqua Lung, Director Don Rockwell said, “We have been associated with a number of scientific expeditions in the past and we are very pleased to be taking part in this new operation, which is appropriate for the Group, in terms of both its products and its values. We will bring to it not only our high performance equipment, but our entire advisory capability as well”.