Back to the South Pacific Gyre

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6 April 2011

Back to the South Pacific Gyre

After a 3 day stopover at Easter Island, Tara returns to the seas with a new scientific team on board. The Moai silhouettes disappeared on the horizon a few nautical miles ago and the team finds themselves once again in the midst of this vertiginous vast blue ocean. It was a short respite for the rosette and its accomplice Sarah Searson. Under a withering sun, the immersions recommenced at the heart of the South Pacific gyre.

On Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Lee Karp Boss, Marcella Cornejo, Leïla Tirichine, Mélissa Duhaime and Franck Prejger, the scientists from Valparaiso to Easter Island, disembarked. After a couple of days on this mysterious island, they will go their separate ways, back to their respective labs, with their heads full of memories, and having acquired an extraordinary experience. For the American Mélissa Duhaime, who normally spends her days in front of her computer studying viral DNA sequences, the change in the daily routine was radical. « I spent almost a month in the wet lab, sometimes getting seasick, but now I realize how much effort is needed to do this sampling. I have some incredible memories of this expedition, be it scientifically or on a human side. » Mélissa’s impressions are seconded by all who have disembarked. Lee Karp Boss, head scientist on this leg, feels the same and especially with the satisfaction of having succeeded in carrying out her assigned mission, and this in spite of the late start from Valparaiso and the difficult weather conditions during the first few stations. « Professionally and personally, the experience on Tara was very intense and it would be a pleasure to embark on another expedition ! ».

Gabriella Gilkes and Sarah Searson will continue the adventure surrounded by new recruits, who are not all complete strangers to the schooner. A returning scientist of « Tara Oceans », Céline Dimier is taking over the sampling of protists. This long leg will also allow this young scientist to take stock of the equipment in the wetlab and prepare for the next legs. Stéphane Pesant, the newly embarked head scientist, is familiar with the schooner and  her protocols. After the Tangier-Algiers and Abu Dhabi-Maldivia legs, this researcher from the University of Bremen will be exploring the South Pacific waters for the first time. « My objectives are on the one hand to strictly follow the established program and protocols. From a scientific perspective, the goal is to explore in depth the richness of this Pacific zone which, viewed from the surface, appears poor in nutrients and plankton. » 

On board for the first time, the Frenchman Vincent Taillandier and the Spaniard Montse Coll Llado will discover what it is like to work and live on board Tara. However, both of these scientists have experienced numerous expeditions on research vessels. Vincent often sails in the Mediterranean Sea and is responsible for the CTD and its data analysis at the laboratory in Villefranche-sur-mer. He has researched the South Pacific, having analysed data from two free-drifting profiler floats immersed around Easter Island. « This leg is particularly interesting for me because I’ve been analysing the data from those floats for two and a half years. Being here in this zone allows me to acquire another perspective – I can observe the color and the conditions of the ocean – the impressions are much more tangible than with teledetection ! »

Completing the last year of her PhD program at Barcelona’s Marine Science Institute, Montse ventured on board research vessels in the Arctic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Like most of the researchers embarking on Tara, a mission on board a sailboat is a major first. After spending a couple of days acclimatizing, the young Catalan is feeling at ease in her floating laboratory, surrounded by a mostly French speaking team.    

The new team will perform the long station, number 98, throughout the night, before sailing for two days towards Guayaquil to carry out the next samplings. As for the meteorological forecast, the weather is expected to be even milder over the next few days, much to the disappointment of the sailors who are already dreaming of raising the sails.  

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