“Bula Fiji”

© Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions

7 June 2017

After sailing across the Pacific Ocean for 31 days, the sailors finally docked the schooner. On June 1, at 2pm local time, Tara entered Port of Lautoka, a city located west of Viti Levu in the Fiji archipelago. But this was a short stopover. The Taranauts’ program during their first 24 hours ashore was very busy: buying provisions, filling out customs forms, and preparing the ship for a new scientific mission.

Some Taranauts would gladly have stayed a few more days at sea, but others were looking forward to setting foot on land, hearing birds singing and seeing green vegetation. For Samuel Audrain, Tara’s captain and sailor at heart: “When you’re on board for a long time, you enter another space-time. In the end, you lose track of time spent at sea. One or two more weeks don’t change anything.”

 

Image ElyxElyx, the UN’s digital ambassador, who illustrated the 17 Sustainable Development Goals aboard Tara to participate in World Ocean Day from Fiji © Elyx by Yak

 

For a month, the skyline and the sea had become our daily lives. On June 1 around 6am, land appeared, breaking our routine. When the first islets came into sight on the port side, the deck was already teeming with scientists ready with a plankton net to filter liters of water. At this early hour, nobody had yet realized that this great adventure on the high seas was about to end. Around 10am, Tara entered the Navula Passage, heading toward a quarantine zone before obtaining approval from the health authorities in Lautoka. A little further, a small pod of dolphins escorted the schooner…

 

13_Lamaneurs_credit_Noelie_Pansiot-2220429Docking pilots in the port of Lautoka, Viti Levu Island © Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expéditions Foundation

 

At 2pm, the head docker moored the schooner while others immediately shouted their greetings: “Bula!” In Fijian, this means “welcome, hello, goodbye” – a word repeated by every new person we meet. Here, in the second largest town in the Republic of Fiji, people greet each other in the street.

Tomorrow, the Taranauts will sail another 25 miles towards Kuta Island to reach their first sampling site. The scientists on board will follow the sampling protocol, marking the beginning of the second year of Tara’s expedition in the Pacific Ocean. For 5 days, the team will study 3 different sites. Then the schooner will sail along the south coast of Viti Levu to reach its capital, Suva. Taranauts will then be able to follow closely the UN Ocean Conference, being held in New York. They will participate in live discussions with United Nations representatives and contribute their precious testimony.

 

10_Tara_baie_Kuata_credit_Noelie_Pansiot-0058Tara moored near the small island of Kuata in Fiji © Samuel Audrain / Tara Expéditions Foundation

 

*Bula Fiji: Welcome to Fiji

 

Noëlie Pansiot

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