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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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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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04/02/17

Tsukiji, the world’s biggest fish market

The city of Tokyo is home to the world’s largest wholesale fish market, located in the Tsukiji district since 1935. …

The city of Tokyo is home to the world’s largest wholesale fish market, located in the Tsukiji district since 1935.

Five days out of seven, professionals are at work in the gigantic halls, buying and selling tons of fish and seafood caught in oceans around the world. Bluefin tuna is sold for extremely high prices at the morning auction where only a few tourists (without cameras!) are welcome.

Kazuki Miyaji goes to the Tsukiji market every week just for fun. This fish enthusiast guides us through the stalls filled with quantities of fish from all over the world

© Noelie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions
03/30/17

A Natural Laboratory in Japan

After a halt devoted to educational outreach, Tara’s scientific research in Japan is starting up again. The schooner will travel …

After a halt devoted to educational outreach, Tara’s scientific research in Japan is starting up again. The schooner will travel south along the Japanese coast, looking for clues about the health of the coral. In the southern region of the Bay of Tokyo, each site studied displays the characteristics of the ocean of the future. Scientists will study simultaneously the effects of temperature changes and increasing acidity (pH) of water on marine ecosystems..

Beneath the surface, the concept of “climate change”; becomes very clear, affecting the corals in an extremely visible way. The 2 factors particularly impacting the corals today are ocean warming and acidification.

 

Tara_a_Shikine_credit_Francois_Aurat-0009Tara in Shikine studying effects of acidification on coral. © François Aurat / Fondation Tara Expéditions

 

Warming and bleaching
To understand what’s happening here, we must explain exactly what coral is. Let’s draw closer and observe with a magnifying glass this animal that, from a distance, resembles a pebble. Coral is a distinct animal, a sort of small, upside down jellyfish called a « polyp » which builds a skeleton outside of its body. Another particularity is the fact that it can’t feed itself. Coral needs micro-algae to supply its energy: the zooxanthella. Using photosynthesis*, this algae provides the nutrients necessary for its survival. This collaboration between algae and coral is called «symbiosis».

But their marriage is fragile. An increase of only 1°C in the ocean’s temperature can lead to the death of a reef in just a few days. Stressed by the heat, corals and algae sign their divorce. Corals lose their micro-algae, or maybe the corals throw them out. Researchers are still questioning this process. Deprived of algae and thus of nutrients, the corals become white and die. This is called “bleaching”.

 

 

_15A3862Shikine, 7 meters depth. © Nicolas Floch / Fondation Tara Expéditions

 

CO2 and acidification
Acidification is the other major threat. This concept is fairly recent: the earliest research on the subject dates only from the 1990s. CO2 released by human activities acidifies the oceans and impacts the growth of corals. Reef health is threatened.

Sylvain Agostini, Tara’s scientific coordinator in Japan, explains: «There are only a few other sites known to exist in the world like Shikine in Japan—one in Italy and the other in Papua New Guinea. The site of Shikine is located in a volcanic zone. The magma burning under the Earth’s crust releases CO2 and forms bubbles that escape from the seabed. The surrounding area is therefore naturally acidified! Usually scientists work on the issue of acidification in aquariums, examining only a few species. In Shikine, the whole ecosystem has been bathing in this acidic water for several generations.»

Diving into the waters of Shikine, Taranauts will take a leap into the future. Acidification of the chosen site corresponds to the estimates predicted globally for the year 2100. So, for the researchers embarking aboard Tara, this area has strong scientific potential and constitutes a natural underwater laboratory.

 

 

_15A3278Maggy Nugges completing a coral-algae transect. © Nicolas Floch / Fondation Tara Expéditions 

Noëlie Pansiot

*Photosynthesis: a bioenergetic process that allows plants and algae to synthesize organic matter using sunlight.

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© Pete West / BioQuest Studios / Fondation Tara Expéditions
03/28/17

Takeshi Kitano, Ambassador of Tara

A new chapter of Tara’s story is beginning in Japan. The Tara project radiates far beyond French borders and is …

A new chapter of Tara’s story is beginning in Japan. The Tara project radiates far beyond French borders and is now officially recognized as a public interest group. None of this would have been possible without the support of Tara’s friends and partners: agnès b., Véolia Foundation, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, and many others.

In the Japanese archipelago, the schooner is sponsored by a well-known personality — actor/film director Takeshi Kitano. As a young boy, he discovered Cousteau and developed a passionate interest in the ocean. For more than 2 years, Takeshi Kitano has been Tara’s Ambassador in Japan. Now he is finally able to discover the schooner on the occasion of Tara’s first visit to the archipelago.

 

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© Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions

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