A rendez-vous between Greenland and Canada

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26 October 2013

A rendez-vous between Greenland and Canada

Jean Collet was the first captain of the former Antarctica, today known as Tara. He was also in charge of preparing the boat for the Tara Oceans Polar Circle expedition. During this leg between Greenland and Canada, he gives us his impressions.

“After 24 hours spent in Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, we’re off again for new adventures. This time we’re leaving for good, Greenland’s white mountains and blue ice. We have a rendez-vous with a point somewhere between Greenland and Canada, where the warm waters of the Atlantic mix with the cold Labrador current descending from the Arctic. Scientists love mixtures. This is where it happens.

Meanwhile, the engine is running because there’s no wind, and we’re towing a measuring device before arriving at destination. It’s a CPR for the initiated, a Continuous Plankton Recorder. Water passes over a silk mesh which retains micro-organisms and is wound onto a drum. This gives a continuous record of the organisms in the water we traverse.
We’ll be at the scheduled area on Sunday in the middle of the Labrador Sea with a long station lasting from sunrise to past sunset.

What strikes me most about this boat is the good ambiance and the pleasure to be here which everybody shows. The work we’re doing is important, everyone is focused on his job, and everything functions. A boat is only a tool. No matter how extraordinary this tool may be, it’s the men and women aboard who are making history with it. This boat has been carrying on since her baptism 25 years ago!
Jean-Louis Etienne, Peter Blake, and now Agnes Troublé and Etienne Bourgois. What wonderful people with high ambitions.

People ask me: “How does the boat look to you now? You’ve known it since its construction?” Overall nothing has changed. It’s still the “space ship” of the beginnings, with its unmistakable look, narrow water-tight doors opening into the vast bright dining room — a center of life and work. At sea, it’s the same, you don’t feel excess weight due to the age and exigencies of scientists.There’s always the same lively roll. The material, dating from the time of construction like the rigging, fittings and motors — is well-maintained and works properly.

Overall nothing has changed, except for the work carried out over the last 10 years, since the day we went to see her with Etienne Bourgois in Newport. Since then, the boat has gone through a lot, and preparing for all these expeditions has improved everything that could be. The last tour of the Arctic benefited from all the earlier work. For a well-maintained boat, work means good health.

25 knots of headwind. We continue towards station 210, the last of Tara Oceans Polar Circle. The sea is agitated and life aboard is complicated by the pitch and roll. It’s difficult to concentrate on writing, reading, or working. But despite it all, the cook has made us a good meal, the sailors are advancing the boat, and  the scientists are preparing tomorrow’s station. The wind has turned abruptly from southwest to northwest. This is good, but on Sunday it will have to calm down –  not a given.

The night stretches on and the wind has calmed down a bit. At the moment, everyone is resting, except of course the two men on watch.”

Jean Collet