log book - A Few Words Upon Embarking
A Few Words Upon Embarking
Eric Karsenti, 62 years old, co-director of Tara Oceans is embarking on his 4th voyage aboard Tara. Bernard d’Alessandri, 52 years old, Secretary General of Monaco Yacht Club, skipper of Tuiga, one of the last boats designed by Fife still sailing. This is his first voyage aboard Tara. Here are their impressions:
“After 3 weeks between Buenos Aires and Ushuaia in the Furious Fifties, where we sailed in very harsh weather conditions with strenuous and exhausting sampling stations, I returned to Paris on December 24th just in time to spend the holidays with my family.
I have a lot of organizing work on land, and it didn’t seem very reasonable to return aboard Tara at the beginning of February for the leg between Puerto Williams and Puerto Montt. But I had promised Etienne Bourgois to do this one with him – probably the only leg we’ll have the chance to do together during the 3-year expedition. Also, it was really difficult to give up the idea of traveling through Patagonia’s channels with the whole team on board Tara.
I therefore abandoned the coordination work and the Parisian cold for this Patagonian adventure -- windy, grey and just as cold.
Just getting here is not a simple matter: a 13-hour flight to Santiago, one day in Santiago, a second 2-hour flight to Punta Arenas. A 3rd flight in a very small twin engine propeller plane which lands us at Puerto Williams, the southernmost village in the world, at Tierra del Fuego’s end, near Cape Horn, where Tara is anchored.
After a spring-like day, surprising in these latitudes, and a meeting with Isabelle Autissier, we set off early the next morning to anchor at the foot of the glaciers. We then began a slow northbound journey through the tortuous channels.
I’m working with Etienne on the expedition’s organization and continuously with the crew on the myriad of problems to be solved. I’m also working with Marc Picheral, one of our 2 oceanographic engineers, who is developing a part of the data archive. I took a couple of night watches between 2 and 4am, a watch that no one likes very much because it interrupts the sleep cycle, but that doesn’t bother me at all. I really enjoy these moments surveying the route by radar and chatting with my colleague.
We are about halfway through the leg as I write these lines, very near the first port where we’ll land (Puerto Eden) after 500 miles of completely deserted channels. The scenery is spectacular with the sheer vertical mountains and the sumptuously colored glaciers coming right up to the sea’s edge. On land, the vegetation is very dense, luxuriant but shriveled up at ground level, with amazing flowers in this desolate landscape.
In fact I have a feeling of déja-vu…
I can’t forget that I had the idea for this expedition while reading Darwin’s “The Voyage of the Beagle” about 15 years ago. One of the Beagle’s missions was to map this area. We’ve passed through the Beagle Channel that bears the name of the British Royal Navy ship. Darwin described in detail his observations of this region in his book. That’s where my feeling of dejà vu came from! Obviously the people who greatly interested Darwin in his time are missing now. The Indian tribes died out at the beginning of the 20th century. Passing through, we wonder how these people could have survived completely naked in a region so wet, grey, cold and inhospitable.
So I find myself coming full circle, to the heart of the landscape whose description fascinated me in Darwin’s book. Although the Indian tribes are gone, the scenery doesn’t seem to have changed a lot. Nevertheless, while traveling through this completely uninhabited zone, one can’t help but think how accustomed we’ve become to living in an environment that we totally modify to suit ourselves.
The French countryside has nothing in common with this pristine scenery! There’s a great sense of freedom here, as well as an interesting feeling of solitude.”
Eric Karsenti, co-director of Tara Oceans
Tara: A Well-balanced Mixture
“The schooner, which is not really a sailboat, but a platform for adventure, sets the tone as soon as she arrives: Everything here is a blend, a subtle balance of respect and sometimes struggle. Actually, sailing on this legendary boat that has served on so many expeditions, inspires respect, but also its own rules.
A mixture of men and women, researchers, sailors, and journalists share the space: Tara will give them the opportunity to pursue their goals. It’s quite rare to bring together such different people in a confined space for a relatively long time. It’s a balancing act of egos, different backgrounds and skills, respect for the rules, and for others. There’s also the challenge of sharing this project with the greatest number of people, while still accomplishing serious scientific research.
All of this is orchestrated by Etienne who listens, observes, evaluates, and decides with an unwavering voice over the years, so that Tara continues her route between adventure and science.”
Bernard d’Alessandri, Secretary General of the Monaco Yacht Club