10 years ago, Tara began her Arctic drift | Tara, a schooner for the planet

10 years ago, Tara began her Arctic drift

© F. Bernard / Fondation Tara Expéditions

Exactly 10 years ago, Tara began a historic expedition: the Arctic drift. On September 4, 2006, the pack ice locked the schooner’s hull in its grip.

Tara departed from Lorient in July 2006 for a polar odyssey: a fantastic scientific and human adventure called Tara Arctic (2006-2008). Our goal was to drift with the ice while studying the effects of global warming at the North Pole and in the Arctic. Nearly a century after the exploit of the Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen in 1893 with the Fram, Tara began a new high-risk adventure, quasi immobile, without sails or motor.

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Tara’s round, flat hull shaped like an olive pit is designed to withstand the extreme pressure exerted by ice. The schooner spent 507 days drifting with the pack ice, driven by currents and winds. Without knowing how long this drift would last, 8 crew members had embarked on a unique experience.

Present aboard the schooner:

· Grant Redvers, expedition leader
· Bruno Vienna, photographer
· Matthew Weber, engineer
· Denys Bourget, doctor
· Hervé Bourmaud, captain
· Victor Karasev, engineer, polar specialist
· Nicolas Quentin, chief engineer
· Agamerzaiev Gamet, polar expert

« If there hadn’t been people crazy enough to join us, we would never have left,” recalls Etienne Bourgois, President of Tara Expeditions Foundation. “Today, we have specialized technicians for extreme conditions, but at the time, in 2006, they were a group of adventurers. Few believed in this project and assembling the crew was not easy. »

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Etienne Bourgois

“The start of the drift was above all a big question mark. We anticipated everything we could — all possible scenarios concerning weather,  technical and medical problems and food supply,  in order to be as independent as possible in case of problems. We departed with 2 tons of food on board. Hard to imagine everything that might happen. Even anticipating a maximum, it was impossible to end up with zero risk. The range of possibilities was enormous!”. Confronting the power of the elements — the interminable polar night and the continuous day — was an intense experience where every daily need could become an impossible mission.

Under the scientific direction of Jean-Claude Gascard, oceanographer at the University Pierre et Marie Curie, director of research at CNRS and coordinator of the European scientific program DAMOCLES (2005-2010), the objective of this major expedition was to identify changes underway in the sea ice, atmosphere and ocean, in order to improve our ability to simulate future changes. Between 2006 and 2008, Tara was an outpost for observing climate change in the Arctic.

Thanks to the schooner, a unique research platform for the 48 participating labs,  precise observations were made during this period. Radiometers, seismographs installed on the ice, and various other instruments collected diverse measurements throughout the mission’s duration.