Words from the captain
Martin Hertau, captain of Tara, participated in the last two expeditions –Tara Oceans and Tara Oceans Polar Circle. For the upcoming expedition in the Mediterranean, he and Samuel Audrain will relay each other as Tara's captain. On the eve of departure from Lorient, he gives us his impressions.
- How did you prepare the boat for the expedition in the Mediterranean?
During Tara's month and a half in the Keroman shipyard (Lorient), we had an important five-year inspection, conducted by the Bureau Veritas. We completely renovated the electrical distribution panel, painted the rear deck, checked the sails, serviced the 2 main engines and 3 generators. We removed all the equipment used during the Tara Oceans and Tara Oceans Polar Circle expeditions, keeping only what will be needed for the upcoming Mediterranean expedition. The former dry lab will now serve as a combined dry-wet lab, divided in 2 areas, one side for doing filtrations, the other side for the sensors.
- What is the objective of the Tara Mediterranean expedition?
A scientific study will be conducted concerning plastic pollution in the sea, coordinated by the Oceanography Laboratory of Villefranche-sur-Mer (Université P. & M. Curie and CNRS), in collaboration with the University of Michigan (USA). Plastic is the form of pollution that has increased the most in the past 20 years. Every day tons of non-degradable plastic are dumped into the ocean! We know that this represents a threat to marine biodiversity, but since it's a relatively recent problem and research takes a lot of time, we lack the elements necessary to understand. Studies must be done on the different kinds of plastic, especially micro-plastics, to learn how they interact with marine micro-organisms, who eats what, who is colonized by whom, etc. The Mediterranean is a perfect laboratory for this study. We will try to understand the impact of plastic, especially on plankton, and at the same time, in the different places we visit, increase people's understanding of the great challenges confronting us.
- What is the relationship of Tara Mediterranean with previous expeditions ?
During our last two expeditions – Tara Oceans and Tara Oceans Polar Circle – we collected plastic using the Manta net, as part of a specific research project. We even passed through the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” sometimes referred to by Americans as the seventh continent.
Preliminary data from our research on plastic pollution in Antarctica has already been disseminated:
- During the Mediterranean expedition, Tara will spend 50 % of the time in ports-of-call, and 50% at sea. What does this mean for you?
It means a completely different rhythm from previous expeditions. Normally we have 1 or 2 stopovers per month maximum. This time we'll have about 3 stopovers per month. We have an important mission to communicate with children and raise their awareness. I hope we'll have a lot of exchanges with local associations, and also between Tara scientists and local scientists. This will be a very people-oriented expedition.
- What is your role on board as captain ?
I'm in charge of the overall management of the expedition, and the safety of persons and equipment aboard. But a captain is nobody without a good crew and a good boat. My job is also to coordinate the work on board between the crew and scientists, as well as represent the shipowner. I also ensure the proper management of the vessel on a technical level, and I'm in constant communication with the shore crew of Tara Expeditions.
- What message do you hope to convey to people you meet during the journey?
We must not be alarmist or fatalistic, but we need to be clear: the situation is very serious, though I do believe there is hope. We must begin to consume and live differently in order to protect future generations. And we have to adopt the logic that planet Earth and the Ocean are the common property of all mankind.
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