6 March 2017
Over the months, the crew changes. During certain stopovers, new team members come aboard Tara and others disembark. New faces appear, and sometimes former Taranauts return. Scientists and crew members take turns continuously. In all, there will be 70 scientists participating in the Tara Pacific expedition. I just relayed Sarah Fretwell as journalist/correspondent aboard.
Sarah is American, more specifically from California, and during our interview she wished to clarify a point: “I didn’t vote for Donald Trump”, she says with a laugh. Multimedia journalist by profession, Sarah is the first English-speaking on board correspondent to embark on Tara. Here is what she will remember from her 2-month stay aboard the schooner:
Sunset in Kiribati © Sarah Fretwell / Fondation Tara Expéditions
How did your arrival aboard Tara go?
I had just finished another project in Africa and I was working until the day I left. So I didn’t really have a mental transition. I had done a virtual tour online, and I had some information as far as the protocol and about the Tara philosophy. I just knew I was in for a big adventure. I just said ok, it’s going to be a life experience no matter what happens. I was really surprised when they showed me the islands that I’d been assigned to: Tuvalu and Kiribati. Because at the beginning of every year, I make a kind of “vision board”, and 2 years ago I found pictures of those same islands in a travel magazine and I had put them on my board!
Was it difficult to adapt to this job?
I was learning about the organization and the job position; I was also learning the culture of the boat, figuring out how it works. It was a steep learning curve. But I feel like the way I dealt with it was OK. “There are going to be challenges every day and I’ll just figure them out.” And so every day, it was just problem-solving all day. But I learned that’s how it is on a boat for everyone, no matter what. Daniel Cron was the chief engineer when I was aboard, and I saw that he was continually problem-solving and fixing things. And Martin was too, with customs and immigration.
© Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expéditions Foundation
When one evokes the job of correspondent aboard Tara, people often romanticize and imagine a situation resembling much more a holiday than work. What do you think of this legend?
It’s definitely not a vacation! I’ve come off other projects feeling tired before, but really I don’t know if I’ve ever been this tired. Everyone is always working: 24h a day, 7 days a week. That was the most challenging part. It’s a difficult position because everything that I was doing, I usually have a team of people that I work with to do it. So it was interesting to suddenly be doing it by myself. Luckily I had the skills for it. My favorite aspect of the job was going to the different islands and having the chance to go ashore and get different stories.
What was your most amazing experience as a reporter?
One of my favorites was Tuvalu because I showed up on New Year’s day and no banks were open. I had no money and I really wanted to interview the Prime Minister, but his secretary hadn’t responded. Martin dropped me off with the dingy. I was carrying the equipment and the tripod with me to the shore and I just walked out of the ocean with my clothes. And I finally had the most beautiful experience there and I managed to get the interview!
© Sarah Fretwell / Tara Expéditions Foundation
I feel incredibly honored and lucky to have worked with the people I met during my time aboard Tara, and to have shared the experiences we had together. Something that’s funny for me: In my job I go to so many places, and my friends at home are interested, but can never fully understand. It’s so cool to have 15 “strangers” and now friends to have shared these lifetime adventures with.
Interview by Noëlie Pansiot,
On board correspondent embarked in Fukuoka (Japan) on February 19, 2017
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