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06/19/17

Portrait of Nicolas Bin, first mate

The list of the first mate’s tasks is long, very long. If we were to cite his most important responsibility, …

The list of the first mate’s tasks is long, very long. If we were to cite his most important responsibility, it would certainly be safety. At age 36, Nicolas Bin takes his job seriously, with rigor and a profound knowledge of the boat. That’s what it takes to be in the N° 2 position aboard Tara. Before he leaves the boat after 5 months of mission, here’s a lively portrait of Tara’s first mate:

Can you talk about my shorts and boots in this portrait?” Despite his responsibilities, the first mate maintains his keen sense of humor. A cheerful type with hair just starting to turn gray, he enjoys making plays on words. Trained at the Glénans school of sailing, Nicolas did not consider the profession of sailor immediately. After his baccalaureat, he hesitated between pursuing studies in music (at a conservatory) or sports (at the fac). But the music lover/black belt in judo finally chose a third alternative: the sea.

When asked what he likes about sailing, Nicolas replies: “It’s one of the last spaces of liberty. I love traveling and meeting people, and from a technical point of view, I enjoy maneuvering the boat and adjusting the sails. When I sail, I always imagine the boat seen from the outside. I try to visualize its aesthetics”. Despite his Alsatian origins, Nicolas began sailing at age 10 with his father in Plobsheim.   “When I was a child, at the end of  a summer vacation the last swim in the sea was a special moment. It was a separation from the sea and I always said a special goodbye”.

After a year and a half as a volunteer at Les Glénans, Nicolas passed the national sailing certification in Quiberon, then was certified “Patron de plaisance” in Cherbourg. From 2005 to 2007, he worked between France and the West Indies as an itinerant “Chef de base”, training instructors for the UCPA. Afterwards he did many back and forth trips between Egypt and Marseilles, but also across the Atlantic. Of all the boats he sailed, only one really caught his attention: “Shooting Star”, a 60-foot former racing catamaran. “I liked that boat very much because it was rugged, with a very elegant profile. It was my first big boat”. Afterwards Nicolas alternated seasons in Corsica and Ushuaia, then went to warm up in French Polynesia on a charter dive boat.

Aboard Tara, the first mate is at the heart of human relations. Each time the scientific team changes, Nicolas is in charge of welcoming new arrivals, explaining the functioning of the boat, organizing the night shift, etc. His briefing on safety and life on board is well established and leaves out no details. He gathers new arrivals around the large table in the main cabin to talk about the challenges of group living and the joys of sharing household chores. And he always gives this warning: “Forbidden to injure yourself on board. Everyone must watch over his own safety and that of others…When there’s a doubt, there’s no doubt: if you smell a suspicious smell, hear a suspicious noise, tell a sailor”.

 

First Mate Nico Bin getting his first look at Japan_photo credit Sarah Fretwell_0Q8A3656© Sarah Fretwell / Fondation Tara Expéditions

 

For Loïc Caudan, one of the 2 head mechanics aboard, “It’s pleasant and easy to work with Nico. I think we have the same way of apprehending work on board. He’s always motivated to lend a hand, whatever the task to accomplish, even the most unpleasant. The first mate’s role is very important: he’s the link between crew and captain, between scientists and crew. Nicolas is very good in this role. He puts everyone at ease with his irresistible charm”.

Charming, even a crooner, he never holds back at the piano: “He could have lived in another era” says Daniel Cron, the other head mechanic.  “He has a slightly jazzy, retro side”. I could see him playing in the smoky bars of New Orleans with the greats of the time — Amstrong, Parker, etc.”

When Nicolas’ name is mentioned to Samuel Audrain, the Captain praises him highly: “He’s the ideal first mate — a guy who really knows how to sail and has experience in sailing, which is important aboard Tara. He likes things well done. Nico is also a sensitive guy you can really talk to. And it’s nice to share something other than work. We often get together to play music”.

 

P2170647© Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions

 

After a day’s work, the 2 men meet to ‘let go’, Samuel on the accordion and Nicolas at the piano. The wheelhouse, PC Com or workshop are transformed into a rehearsal room. The duo plays and replays the same melodies over and over: Libertango; Tango for Claude, Besame Mucho…Sometimes, at the request of the Taranauts, the musicians set up in the main cabin. Crew members start to sing and dance, with more or less talent, but always in good humor. With big smiles, Sam and Nico get totally into the music, playing until they drop.

 

Noëlie Pansiot

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© Sarah Fretwell / Fondation Tara Expéditions
06/07/17

“Bula Fiji”

After sailing across the Pacific Ocean for 31 days, the sailors finally docked the schooner. On June 1, at 2pm …

After sailing across the Pacific Ocean for 31 days, the sailors finally docked the schooner. On June 1, at 2pm local time, Tara entered Port of Lautoka, a city located west of Viti Levu in the Fiji archipelago. But this was a short stopover. The Taranauts’ program during their first 24 hours ashore was very busy: buying provisions, filling out customs forms, and preparing the ship for a new scientific mission.

Some Taranauts would gladly have stayed a few more days at sea, but others were looking forward to setting foot on land, hearing birds singing and seeing green vegetation. For Samuel Audrain, Tara’s captain and sailor at heart: “When you’re on board for a long time, you enter another space-time. In the end, you lose track of time spent at sea. One or two more weeks don’t change anything.”

 

Image ElyxElyx, the UN’s digital ambassador, who illustrated the 17 Sustainable Development Goals aboard Tara to participate in World Ocean Day from Fiji © Elyx by Yak

 

For a month, the skyline and the sea had become our daily lives. On June 1 around 6am, land appeared, breaking our routine. When the first islets came into sight on the port side, the deck was already teeming with scientists ready with a plankton net to filter liters of water. At this early hour, nobody had yet realized that this great adventure on the high seas was about to end. Around 10am, Tara entered the Navula Passage, heading toward a quarantine zone before obtaining approval from the health authorities in Lautoka. A little further, a small pod of dolphins escorted the schooner…

 

13_Lamaneurs_credit_Noelie_Pansiot-2220429Docking pilots in the port of Lautoka, Viti Levu Island © Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expéditions Foundation

 

At 2pm, the head docker moored the schooner while others immediately shouted their greetings: “Bula!” In Fijian, this means “welcome, hello, goodbye” – a word repeated by every new person we meet. Here, in the second largest town in the Republic of Fiji, people greet each other in the street.

Tomorrow, the Taranauts will sail another 25 miles towards Kuta Island to reach their first sampling site. The scientists on board will follow the sampling protocol, marking the beginning of the second year of Tara’s expedition in the Pacific Ocean. For 5 days, the team will study 3 different sites. Then the schooner will sail along the south coast of Viti Levu to reach its capital, Suva. Taranauts will then be able to follow closely the UN Ocean Conference, being held in New York. They will participate in live discussions with United Nations representatives and contribute their precious testimony.

 

10_Tara_baie_Kuata_credit_Noelie_Pansiot-0058Tara moored near the small island of Kuata in Fiji © Samuel Audrain / Tara Expéditions Foundation

 

*Bula Fiji: Welcome to Fiji

 

Noëlie Pansiot

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© Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions
05/31/17

Portrait of a sailor: Loïc Caudan

Loïc Caudan is something of a shadow man aboard Tara: he’s below deck in the bowels of the whale and …

Loïc Caudan is something of a shadow man aboard Tara: he’s below deck in the bowels of the whale and discreetly watches over its vital organs. Whether in the engine room, the workshop, the hold or under the passageways, he moves around carefully, far from the bustle of the bridge, which is perfect for him. During his long months on board, he pampers, repairs, creates and maintains. Who exactly is this Taranaut? Portrait of a “chief mechanic” very different from the stereotypes.

 

For the first mate, Nicolas Bin, Loïc is “a guy I like to work and sail with! He’s someone who finishes things and doesn’t go half-way.” On board, everyone agrees that the young man is conscientious and reliable. But not only…

 

2-Loic_Caudan_credit_NPansiot-2170205Chief engineer Loïc Caudan upon arrival in Yokohama harbour © Noélie Pansiot / Tara Expéditions Foundation

 

32 years old, married with one child, Loïc grew up in Val-d’Oise until he was 20. He enrolled in geography at the university and earned a bachelor’s degree in “History, Sociology, Climatology and Geology”. In parallel, he became an instructor for “dinghy sailing and sailboat cruising”. Following a year of volunteer work at the French Les Glénans sailing school and a state certificate as sports instructor at the National Sailing School of Quiberon, Loïc found his vocation! “At least for a while.” He then worked at Les Glénans for 3 seasons. While there, he didn’t hesitate to jump overboard to put his apprentice-monitors to the test during rescue exercises. “The most grueling session lasted 45 minutes in 15° C water. That’s a long time, even in a wetsuit,” recalls the chief mechanic.

 

In 2010, he joined forces with Father Jaouen’s association to improve his knowledge of ship maintenance and repair: “I was given responsibilities even as a novice. I helped to fabricate a bronze rudder bearing for a 36-meter boat. A rare experience!” It’s here that he acquired the basics for his future work aboard Tara. He then embarked on a major personal project: buying and refitting a steel sailboat and sailing along the coasts of Africa, Brazil and Uruguay.

 

On his return in 2012, he passed the 750Kw mechanic’s certificate and volunteered as a mechanic on the Greenland expedition Under the Pole. “I was involved in the project from the construction site to the end of the exploration. And it was during this first polar experience that I encountered my first big engine breakdown. Seawater had entered the cylinder head.” Loïc then turned to another environment: fishing. He embarked as second mechanic on a 35-meter trawler for 8 months.

 

IMG_7934© Tara Expéditions Foundation

 

Loïc always thought about working aboard Tara: “I wanted to continue to be on a work boat and to sail, which is, in my opinion the nicest way to navigate.” For the last 2 and a half years, the 30-year old has taken turns in the position of chief mechanic on the schooner. Daniel Cron, his alter ego on board explains: “In general, it’s a bit frustrating since we just cross paths on Tara. But just for a change, this time I embarked as deck officer. So we have the opportunity to sail together for a month to Fiji. And I’m very happy! We are opposites in character: he’s rather quiet and I’m rather extroverted. In fact Loic mentions from time to time that silence doesn’t bother him. At first, he plays the role of gruffy bear and it takes a little while to find the marshmallow inside. He’s a fake bad guy, but a real grumbler when it comes to the consumption of water and electricity on board. And he’s right!”

 

CREDITS MAEVA BARDY-ESCALE MIAMI-PASSATION LOIC CAUDAN ET DANIEL CRON-1© Maeva Bardy / Tara Expéditions Foundation

 

It must be said that Loïc is responsible for all of the schooner’s energy production. He understands how much each drop of water costs and knows every energy expenditure. Engines, generators, desalinator, electric circuits, water circuits for science and even sanitary. Loïc watches over Tara’s essential organs, and also over his teammates. He is always there to help.

 

After thinking about it, he probably makes a game out of being reluctant. Loïc displays a cynical sense of humor but he doesn’t lack responsiveness or general culture. His characteristic shrugging and eyebrow raising show that he participates in the teasing on board. You often have to listen carefully to hear him say a word. He doesn’t like being the center of attention, and when the on-board correspondent points a camera in his direction, the chief mechanic bends over and closes his eyes. When asked to open them, he answers at a glance, “You should take my picture only when I have them open! Maybe it’s time you found a real job.” Bursts of laughter follow.

 

 

Noëlie Pansiot

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© Noélie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions
05/12/17

31 days of autonomy at sea

Tara has been traveling towards the South Pacific for the past few days, heading for Fiji, more precisely for Lautoka, …

Tara has been traveling towards the South Pacific for the past few days, heading for Fiji, more precisely for Lautoka, with arrival expected on the first of June.  6 sailors, 5 scientists and a journalist are aboard, living in complete autonomy for a whole month of sailing. On the high seas, Taranauts maintain a fast pace determined by the rhythm of sampling stations, daily tasks and night shifts. This leg is the longest of the Tara Pacific expedition.

 

744 hours of navigation. A unique experience for 13 people living in full autonomy aboard an oceanographic vessel. But what is “autonomy” at sea? The dictionary gives this definition of the word: “Time during which a device can function without outside intervention”. Regarding Tara, this definition is not limited to the supply of food and fuel.

Energy independence is indeed one of the main concerns of Captain Samuel Audrain: “Fuel oil is an important concern because we have to arrive on schedule. But fuel is expensive and weighs down the boat. So we have to make some calculations. We departed with 25,000 liters — the reservoir a little more than half full. And as soon as conditions are right, we hoist the sails and choose a direction to get maximum benefit from the wind. Being powered by the wind makes everyone feel happy, stabilizes the boat, and spares the motors. We move much faster, and of course our carbon footprint is much improved”.

 

6_Grand_voile_black_white_credit_Noelie_Pansiot-2210561
All sails outside, the schooner advances at a speed of 7 knots © Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation

 

Samuel continues: “Water autonomy is also a crucial point. We have a 6000-liter tank and a desalinator. In case of a problem with this machine, we have 390 liters of bottled water which, theoretically, would keep us going for a week”.

When embarking aboard the schooner, risks related to the remoteness of medical care must be considered. In the event of a problem, the Taranauts would not be lacking for care. The boat carries medical equipment labelled “Dotation A” consisting of materials and medicines determined by the type of navigation practiced, and the number and function of people on board. The letter “A” means that the schooner has a well-stocked pharmacy, and that sailors are trained to measure vital signs, and place sutures or perfusions if necessary.

When it comes to safety, the watchword is clear: “Forbidden to get hurt on board!” First mate Nicolas Bin repeats this rule to each newcomer during the security briefing. “Each person must take care of his own safety and that of his team”. We have to respect the sleep of the Taranauts who all take turns doing night watch. “We try to take into account the capacities of each person because we need to function well over a long period. Team members must find their own rhythm, balancing hours of sleep and work. Paying attention to the crew’s rest is an important aspect of safety on board”, remarks the Captain.

 

Exercice_homme_mer_credit_Noelie_Pansiot-2210290
The crew simulated a man overboard exercise © Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation

 

Interrupted sleep, hard work, extreme heat — this crossing is far from any romantic images one might have. Remember that Tara is a polar vessel currently sailing in a tropical zone. Crew and equipment are like coral, they suffer from high temperatures. Samuel Audrain explains: “Our navigation instruments could not withstand the temperatures that the sailors bear from time to time”. Air conditioning makes it possible to maintain a moderate temperature in the PC Com and also in the dry lab where essential instruments function 24 hours a day.

For Marion Lauters, sailor/cook, managing the food stocks is a real challenge. Her “little worry” is keeping things cool. “Aboard Tara we don’t have much space in the refrigerators. Another place partly reserved for food storage is the front hold, but it’s not insulated and varies according to the outside temperature — more than 30°C at the moment. Also, there’s a generator in this hold, but I negotiated with the chief mechanic so it’s not being used”. As for food stocks, there’s no worry! Marion knows very well the quantities consumed on board: “I multiply what we eat by the number of weeks and people. Coffee is about 250g per day, the same as butter. Flour is between 800 grams and 1 kilo per day.” For this leg, nothing will be lacking. The risk is being overweight!

Autonomy aboard Tara for such a long time requires a lot more than some bunches of bananas, a stock of preserves and a reservoir of fuel. This crossing requires a great deal of planning, precise logistics and a highly competent team.

Noëlie Pansiot

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© Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions
05/11/17

Chronicle of a Taiwanese stopover

More than 8 days ago, Tara arrived under escort in the port of Keelung, Taiwan. Small sailboats of the National …

More than 8 days ago, Tara arrived under escort in the port of Keelung, Taiwan. Small sailboats of the National Taiwan Ocean University welcomed the Taranauts with great fanfare which continued throughout the stopover. And it was to the sound of big drums that the sailors moored the boat, only a few steps from the famous fish market.

 

Voilier_Universite_credit_Noelie_Pansiot-2210154The Taranauts escorted by sailboats of the National Taïwan Ocean University © Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions

 

With about thirty knots of wind in her sails for 36 hours, the schooner didn’t take long to cover the 330 miles separating Japan’s Okinawa Island from Taiwan. As soon as they reached the quay, the Taranauts were invited to a reception ceremony followed by a dinner – an evening during which the team explored the local culinary diversity. The following days were exceptionally well organized thanks to the National Taiwan Ocean University (NTOU) and the faithful support teams of agnès b. Taiwan: scientific conferences, public visits on board and inauguration of a beautiful exhibition in Taipei.

 

Tara’s stopover in Keelung is the result of a fruitful collaboration between Tara Base in Paris and the dynamic NTOU President, Mr. Ching-Fong Chang. The project seems to have found a particular echo: “We have the same concerns as Tara. The ocean is suffering from warming, pollution and overfishing,” explained Mr. Chang. “We are surrounded by the sea, we have 100,600 km of coast and 120 islands. The ocean is very important for Taiwan, but the government does not seem concerned by the subject. The arrival of Tara in Keelung is a good thing for the education of children and the public. This is a positive sign.”

 

Ceremonie_acceuil_Keelung_credit_Noelie_Pansiot-2200321Tara arrives in Keelung. Sunday, April 23 © Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation

 

As for each stopover, visitors took turns on deck with an efficient team of volunteer translators present every day from 9 am to 6 pm regardless of the weather: Duos of Taranauts and volunteers took turns leading visits and describing the history of the research vessel. Everybody recounted anecdotes and added a touch of humor to keep the attention of the audience.

Michel Flores of the Weizmann Institute of Science encouraged the public’s participation: “Do you know how many people can live on board?”. Others told the love story with a sad ending between coral and zooxanthellae during an episode of bleaching. Between each visit, the crew refined the details of the “great crossing” that will take them from Taiwan to Fiji in the coming month. After a meeting to define “Ocean and Aerosol” protocols, the scientists finished installing their instruments on board. While the sailors tackled final preparations of the boat, Marion Lauters, sailor/cook, spent the last 3 days of the stopover shopping in organic stores and supermarkets to replenish the food stocks.

 

Nicolas_Bin_manoeuvre_credit_Noelie_Pansiot-photoshopFirst mate, Nicolas Bin, hard at work © Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expéditions Foundation

 

Sunday afternoon after casting off, Nicolas Bin sounded the foghorn and gave a vocal performance. Placing his hands around his mouth, the first mate imitated the honking horn of an old car, like the wolf in a Tex Avery cartoon. A last wave of hands saluted the volunteers and the public on the quay. It’s promised — in one year, Tara’s orange masts will return to the port of Keelung. Thank you all!

Zài jiàn! (Goodbye in Mandarin)

 

Samuel_salue_voilier_Universite_credit_Noelie_Pansiot-2210160Samuel Audrain, captain, salutes the volunteers. © Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation

 

Noëlie Pansiot

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© Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions
05/06/17

Video: Logbook of an artist

On each expedition, the schooner Tara embarks several artists-in- residence selected by a jury chaired by agnès b. Nicolas Floc’h, …

On each expedition, the schooner Tara embarks several artists-in- residence selected by a jury chaired by agnès b. Nicolas Floc’h, photographer, artist and teacher at the Ecole Européenne Supérieure d’Art de Bretagne recently spent a month on board between Japan and Taiwan. Here he describes his work on marine habitats and talks about his experience aboard Tara.

© Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expéditions Foundation

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© Nicolas Floc'h / Fondation Tara Expéditions
04/29/17

Video: Artificial reefs in Japan

Aboard Tara, a special place is reserved for artists. agnès b. presided over the jury that selected 8 artists to …

Aboard Tara, a special place is reserved for artists. agnès b. presided over the jury that selected 8 artists to take turns on the schooner during the 2-year Tara Pacific expedition.

Nicolas Floc’h is the third artist-in-residence. Photographer/ artist/ teacher, he comes from Brittany and embarked in Japan to dive alongside scientists around the coral reefs. In his current project, he is looking at a different type of underwater habitat: artificial reefs — structures designed and submerged by man.

 

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© Nicolas Floc'h / Fondation Tara Expéditions
04/24/17

Sayonara Nippon! Bye Bye Japan!

On board we all agree, “This was a great departure!” After sailing along the coasts of Japan for 2 months, …

On board we all agree, “This was a great departure!” After sailing along the coasts of Japan for 2 months, the schooner finally left Chatan to the sound of sanshins and applause. One month devoted to education and raising awareness, a second month focused mainly on scientific research, with 16 people on board sharing daily life and work. During Tara’s time in Japan, we welcomed aboard nearly 4,500 visitors.

The last morning on the island of Okinawa was typical of all Tara’s stopovers: dense and fast-paced.

At 7:30 am, a first group of crew members had an appointment at the Immigration Service to formalize their exit from the territory. Difficult to summarize such a rich experience with a quick rubber stamp. Meanwhile, other Taranauts their bags after a final tour inside the boat to look for miscellaneous objects swallowed up by the whale — a toothbrush forgotten in a bathroom, a tee shirt left on the clothesline in the rear hold.

 

Yuko_Kitano_credit_Francois_AuratYuko Kitano, taxonomist and Taranaut © François Aurat / Tara Expeditions Foundation

 

At 9 am, Yuko Kitano, a researcher at the University of Miyazaki, gave a last tour of the boat for a group of young children. Yuko had become the mascot of Tara over the last few weeks. In her thirties, petite, with big expressive eyes, the young woman expended a huge amount of energy throughout this mission. Returning from a dive, notebook in hand, Yuko carefully wrote down the French words she learned and repeated to perfection, including one or two swear words that symbolize for everyone the apprenticeship of a new language. And then her famous “C’est bon” that concluded every meal prepared by our wonderful cook, Marion Lauters.

 

Au_revoir_Sarah_Romac_Marion_Lauters_credit_Noelie_Pansiot-2200096Sarah Romac, engineer at the Roscoff Biological Station and Marion Lauters, sailor/cook, saying goodbye © Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation

 

At 11am, Sarah Romac, engineer, Natacha Roux, doctoral student, and Maggy Nugues, ecologist, opened the dance of goodbyes and embraces. For her fourth mission aboard Tara Pacific, Sarah departed with a row of black and blue marks on her legs – the result of doing sampling work aboard a boat where it’s easy to get bruised without even noticing it. She said she was “delighted” with this voyage which allowed her to learn about some subjects she doesn’t study at the Roscoff Biological Station. For Maggy Nugues (CRIOBE) this was her second embarkation: “From a scientific point of view, the voyage was extremely rich. I became aware of everything we had accomplished in a few weeks when I saw the underwater photographs of Nicolas Floc’h, artist-in-residence. During these 3 and a half weeks we were far away from everyday concerns. We were close to nature, in contact with the elements – a good time for meditation! So, we’re all a bit sad to leave…

At 2 pm, official departure time, during a farewell ceremony on the quay, Sylvain Agostini was presented with a Japanese flag signed by all the Taranauts. Scientific coordinator of this mission, Sylvain was a central element in the organization of this part of Tara’s voyage, and he contributed largely to its success, never counting his hours of work. Before leaving the schooner, the flag under his arm, Sylvain said a last word to the crew to sum up his experience aboard Tara: “scientifically interesting and humanely outstanding”.

 

15-Samuel_Audrain_et_Sylvain_Agostini_credit_Noelie_Pansiot-2200167Tara’s scientific coordinator in Japan, Sylvain Agostini offers the Japanese flag to Capitain Samuel Audrain © Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions

 

The entire Tara Expeditions Foundation team, on land and at sea, wishes to warmly thank the various agnès b. crews, university teams, NHK, our shipping agent Yusuke Yoneyama, and many others for their tremendous work, support, and hospitality that allowed Tara to spend 2 exceptional months in Japan, meeting the public, scientists, media. A new adventure in itself, and for each one of us, that we will renew in May 2018. See you next year!

 

Noëlie Pansiot

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© Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions
04/16/17

Kikaijima, between past and present

Arriving by boat offers a different way of getting to know a place: you have the time to discover it. …

Arriving by boat offers a different way of getting to know a place: you have the time to discover it. First the profile, then colors and finally its geology. From far away, the tiny island of Kikai doesn’t reveal all its assets: limestone cliffs, a flat surface, fields of sugar cane, and a climate indicating arrival in the tropics. Anchored off the coast for 2 days, Taranauts had time to observe the island from a distance. 48 hours of waiting before stepping on land, or rather on coral debris. The time required for scientists to perform their sub-aquatic ballet, repeating the same gestures as on each coral reef.

 

At_sea_credit_Nicolas_FlochTara left the main Japanese island heading for Kikaijima  © Nicolas Floc’h / Fondation Tara Expéditions

 

In Japanese, Kikaijima means “the island of pleasure”– just right to stir up the curiosity of a team of sailors! Located between the eastern China Sea and the Pacific, between temperate zone and tropical zone, Kikaijima is quite unusual. Each year the coral plateau constituting this small island rises a little more. Beneath the feet of its 7,600 inhabitants, tectonic plates are discreetly moving.

100,000 years ago Kikaijima was a coral reef like any other: a colony of animals building an oasis of biodiversity below the surface. Then, pushed by telluric* forces for millennia, the reef reached the surface and now rises 214 meters above sea level. No wonder this remote island in the Amani archipelago attracts the attention of geologists. The current speed of elevation is impressive: 2 mm per year — one of the fastest in the world, along with the Caribbean island of Barbados, or the Huon Peninsula in Papua New Guinea

Today life in Kikaijima has nothing to do with the frenzy of large Japanese cities. For the islanders living on these 53 square kilometers of limestone, daily concerns are more important than the geological originalities of the island. Landing on Kikai, you immediately feel the peaceful rhythm of life. Some fishing, some agriculture. Only one big supermarket, with a poster announcing Tara’s arrival. Two years ago a new structure was built on the fishing port — the Coral Reef Institute — conceived by Tsuyoshi Watanabe and Atsuko Yamazaki, whom the Taranauts met at a party organized in their honor at the Institute.

 

Comité_accueil_credit_Noelie_Pansiot-2190107Warm welcome committee for Tara’s arrival at Kikaijima island © Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions

 

Tsuyoshi Watanabe, specialist in paleoclimatology and geology, is a lecturer at Hokkaido University. “After traveling around the world, we realized that people here knew nothing about coral. In general, scientists visit a site, collect a few samples, and take them back to their laboratories. So we decided to establish this institute to share our knowledge. Now the children of Kikaijima are familiar with coral and this makes us feel proud.”

We have to delve into the past, look at the geology of the island or to take an interest in its geography to understand its uniqueness. “The coral shelf here has been through different climatic periods”, explains Tsuyoshi. “By studying it, we can go back in time and better understand the past ecosystem of coral, its palaeo-biodiversity…This could give us valuable information on the future of our environment. Kikaijima is situated on a border between past and present. It’s a unique island!”

 

Noëlie Pansiot

 

*telluric: concerning the Earth

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© Nicolas Floc'h / Fondation Tara Expéditions
04/15/17

Video: Ocean acidification laboratory

Studied since the 90s, the concept of ocean acidification is fairly recent. The CO2 released by human activities acidifies the …

Studied since the 90s, the concept of ocean acidification is fairly recent. The CO2 released by human activities acidifies the oceans and impacts the growth of corals as well as calcified organisms.

On the outskirts of Shikine Island, Japan, Taranauts scientists were able to dive on a naturally acidified site due to underwater volcanic CO2 emissions. The data collected should therefore help them better understand what is playing under the surface.

© Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expeditions

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© Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expeditions

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