26 September 2017
From the Chesterfield archipelago it took us a little more than 3 days of sailing into the wind to reach Noumea. We arrived on “Le Caillou” under a slightly cloudy sky. The stopover at Port Moselle lasted a week before we set out for some new sampling sites in the Caledonian lagoon. Registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, this lagoon is the longest in the world.
Preparation of the mooring of Tara in Noumea – © Vincent Hilaire / Fondation Tara Expéditions
Still under the enchantment of those peaceful but active days spent in the Chesterfield Islands, the 15 Taranauts were called to order when, after crossing the southern pass, we hit rough seas again. As announced by the grib (weather forecast maps), a period of difficult navigation began using Tara’s 2 motors, no sails, heading directly into a steady southeast wind.
For the entire crew, life at sea immediately resumed a fairly monotonous (and for some people, even unpleasant) pace, punctuated by meals, night shifts, specific jobs, daily chores and routines. Except for Morgane Ratin and Guillaume Bourdin, who redoubled their energy on the rear deck, doing 3 plankton sampling stations on the way to Noumea.
Landscapes of the lagoon of New Caledonia – © Vincent Hilaire / Fondation Tara Expéditions
At dusk 72 hours later, after following a very mountainous coastline barely visible in the thick mist, we came to the entrance of the Caledonian lagoon – a liberation! Once we passed the immense barrier reef, the rolling and pitching ceased. An hour and a half later, advancing into the darkness, Simon Rigal found a quiet refuge for Tara, which meant a real night of sleep for everybody (finally)! Anchored here we were surrounded by only a few far-flung lights – a gentle and gradual return to civilization.
The next day, getting closer to our goal, we found a new spot to anchor in the lagoon, this time about 15 kilometers from Noumea. A second restful night.
“It looks a little like the Canary Islands”, said deck officer Francois Aurat, who will remain on board until the Solomon Islands. Seen from the boat, this very mountainous landscape, interspersed with bays, sparsely dotted with pinewoods, looks as if its vegetation was burnt by the sun.
Noumea’s harbour before entering the marina of Port Moselle – © Vincent Hilaire / Fondation Tara Expéditions
Then the first buildings appeared on the horizon: Noumea, formerly called Port-de-France, is a city of 180,000 inhabitants (counting the suburbs) – the largest French-speaking city in the entire Pacific Ocean. Tara docked in Port Moselle. As at every stopover, it was time for conferences, and visits of school kids and general public.
Thank you all for your welcome, your support, and many interesting exchanges. We’re heading for the Caledonian lagoons to do coral sampling, but we’ll come back to Noumea soon.
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