Departure : September 5th.
Departure for the second year of the Tara Oceans expedition is impending. On September 5th, the schooner will set sail once again and bid its goodbyes to the homeland of Nelson Mandela.
After a month and a half of thorough inspection and maintenance of Tara and her engines, everyone on land and onboard is now busy getting ready for the « second episode » of this scientific odyssey. A new year-long trek begins: Tara will be sailing from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, and from Cape Town, South Africa to Auckland, New Zealand. Tara Expeditions: Romain Troublé, you are the coordinator for this expedition. In its first year, Tara covered 17000 miles, with thirty-two stopovers. Should we expect a similar schedule for this second year?
Romain Troublé: This year, Tara and her crew will cover a far greater distance: 23 000 miles, approximately the circumference of planet Earth. However, there will “only” be 15 port calls, which will relieve the pressure on the engines and crew. This also means there are fewer entry permits to obtain for the countries we’ll be visiting. And we know there’s a six-month wait for permission to enter the Galapagos Islands, which are on our route. Nonetheless, it’s clear that a load will be taken off our shoulders in this respect.
T.E.: With a smaller number of stopovers necessary to carry out this year’s scientific project, will the cost of the expedition be lowered?
R.T: Substantially. There will be fewer turnovers to replace the scientists and sailors working onboard. Fewer stopovers mean less harbour fees. This will give us some much-needed extra leeway. In our first year, out of our 32 port calls, we were granted free-stay only twice -- in Nice, France, and in Beirut, Lebanon.
To avoid frequent trips back and forth from France to South America -- since we‘ll be spending 8 months there, reaching Valparaiso in late February 2011 – we’ve decided to send Olivier Quesnel, our logistics manager, to Buenos Aires, Argentina for the first six months of the expedition. He will be working directly from there.
T.E: In the first year of the expedition, you had to cope with the ever lingering sword of Damocles -- the threat of piracy between the African horn and the Mozambique canal. This year however, you’ll be going from the South African shores to South America, and later on from the Antarctic to the Pacific. Will this make the atmosphere more serene?
R.T: This year, we had to deal with constant threats during the three months we spent around Oman and India, and even in the middle of the Indian Ocean. In the second year of the expedition, we’ll be spared this source of stress. We’ll be spending nearly all of our time in the southern hemisphere, aside from an incursion into Ecuador after going to Galapagos Islands.
On the other hand, new problems will arise. Because of the decrease in number of port calls, we’ll spend much more time together, which might make the atmosphere a bit oppressive for some. Wind and sailing conditions will probably be a bit rougher as we descend towards Antarctica. And indeed, this is something we’re all very happy about. Tara is coming home to a well known element: ice.
T.E.: Judging from the distances covered, there will be time differences, which will necessarily make organization more complicated, right?
R.T.: When Tara is in Auckland, for example, there will be up to eleven hours of difference, so we will indeed have to take this into account to carry out our scientific mission successfully. It won’t always be easy, and it will also contribute to a certain delay in the information flow between the boat and our general quarters in Paris. T.E.: How was the route for this second year determined?
R.T: Because of the extra time at our disposition between port calls, we will be making much more use of our sails. Our route, determined for our scientific experiments, combines wind and currents more favourably. I’m expecting a 30% decrease in the use of gas. With help from the anticyclone in St-Hélène and its south-eastern/ eastern winds, we should easily meet these expectations.T.E: Back to Antarctica, where Tara hasn’t been since 2006. Isn’t the temperature going to create problems in respect to your scientific experiments?
R.T: Low temperatures are our main concern. Even if we cross this part of the hemisphere during the austral summer, the water we’ll be filtering may very well be at a temperature of 0°C.
During our work on Tara in Cape Town, we turned the heating back on. The dry labs in the hull will benefit from the heat, but we haven’t yet figured out what to do about the wet lab on the outside deck. T.E: Ascension Island, Rio, Buenos Aires, Ushuaia, Valparaiso, Galapagos Islands, Marquesas Islands, Tahiti, Auckland -- does any of these locations stand out, according to you?
R.T: At the moment, and probably because it’s the closest destination, I’d be inclined to think of our port call in Rio. Etienne Bourgois and Eric Karsenti, co-directors of Tara Oceans, will be present. A symposium will bring together Brazilian scientists and French scientists from the expedition, as well as several representatives from the CNRS. An evening event in the botanical garden in Rio is also scheduled, and we’re hoping to welcome high ranking personalities onboard. In short, it will undoubtedly be a strong moment of this second year.