A pioneering French Antarctic research station, Port Martin, located 62 km east of D'Urville, was destroyed by fire on the night of January 23, 1952, without death or injury. In 1952, a small base was built on Île des Pétrels to study a rookery of emperor penguins. This base was called Base Marret. As the main base Port Martin was a total loss, Base Marret was chosen as overwintering site for 1952/1953. The new main base, Dumont D'Urville station, was built on the same island and opened on January 12, 1956, to serve as center for French scientific research during the Antarctic International Geophysical Year 1957/1958. The station has remained in active use ever since.
The station allows only 30-40 people to come ashore at one time. Ice and strong katabatic winds often prevent landings, either by Zodiac or by helicopter. The station can accommodate about 30 winter-overs and 120 during the summer. The icebreaker ship l'Astrolabe L'Astrolabe carries supplies and personnel to the station from the port of Hobart, Tasmania. It does 5 round-trips between November and March.
The Academy Award-winning documentary film La Marche de l'empereur, released in English as March of the Penguins, was filmed in the region around this base.