After the rain, fair weather


16 October 2011

Having crossed a very stormy sea with gusts of wind up to 35 knots, we finally arrive at the heart of the low pressure zone. Our main sail got badly torn, and we spent the last period of navigation on deck, attached to security harnesses, watching the wild sea unfurl and spray us with salty cascades.

François Aurat, during his night watch : « 2h30, 29 knots northeast, you’d think it was mid-August at the entry to the port of Brest! That’s the magic of Tara. Only the crèpes and sausages are missing !! »

Today, Sunday October 16, the sun is shining again, and it looks like we’ll arrive at our next sampling station by tomorrow evening. The scientific team is ready to get back to work. Martin offers us a freshly-caught sea bream for the sake of science. With a scalpel in hand, Celine Dimier dissects the guts of the fish, looking for plastic inside the stomach. Unfortunately (dare I say?) it’s totally empty, which of course is why the fish got itself caught on a hook. We still have to analyse the fish’s flesh, which might contain invisible toxicity.

It’s also useful to preserve this catch for studying the eventual consequences of Fukushima, the nuclear catastrophe that occurred on March 11, 2011. This fish was certainly not in direct contact with the contamination, but it will serve as a “point zero” with which to compare the levels of radioactivity in organisms that have come in contact with contaminated water or debris from across the Pacific. Celine Blanchard skillfully negotiates a trade – to get freshly-caught sea bream in exchange for pieces of frozen Thazard that had been caught in an even more significant zone – in the center of the north Pacific, when we were crossing the « plastic continent ». We all thank Celine for her fine business sense, which has allowed us a delicious new round of poke mahi mahi for dinner.

Andres Peyrot