25 April 2007


In the past days, the bets are open: which latitude will Tara reach? The stakes are the following: Jean-Claude will offer to the winner the content of a Nansen Bottle that will have been collected at 3 000 meters deep after analysis. Francis promises to offer a special print. And Etienne, off course will give a agnès b ‘special polar outfit’.
On the Tara base, the wind is slowing down the operations. It was blowing at 26 knots today. We reached minus 30°C which taking account the “windchill factor” made the temperatures feel close to minus 40°C .
The scientists looked like strange colourful astronauts on the pack ice beaten by the icy air, wrapped up to their eyes, their clumsy gait…
The vision of this base, with the snow running from crest to crest under a sun in the backlight is just breathtaking. The storms are always beautiful and Francis had a field day with his camera. Despite the goodwill of Georg, Jean-Claude and others who swept the deck, Tara seems to sink more and more in the white dune. The snow is now standing one meter fifty higher than the tilted board.

Because of the wind, certain measurement operations have been postponed. The scientists have concentrated on the installation of the material. The seismologists for instance have begun to implement the five seismic stations. Three have already been christened: Tartu (to be pronounced Taartou), Paris and Helsinki. The brainstorming is underway to decide on the name of the two remaining ones. As for Susanne Hanson and her team from the  Danish Space Center, they have continued their series of holes: there are 400 to be dug, every five meters, to calibrate the aerial measures of the pack ice thickness.

A small plane « Twin Otter », based on our runway, flies quasi permanently. It is the “four-wheel drive” of the pack ice capable to land about anywhere, provided that the pilot is able to spot a lead sufficiently long. It lands with just 300 meters. It’s past midnight and the team has just come back with his passenger Michael Offermann of the Hamburg University. He was able to parachute his 16 meteorological buoys within a square of 500 km per side.
The buoys have started to emit every 90 seconds. They will do so for a year.
Logistics wise, we have to start negotiating with each one to find out who will leave in the coming days and who can presently send back some equipment. For everyone the deadline is the 30th of April. That day, the DC3 will only be able to carry 14 people and we are still 33 who have to return. It is quite frustrating to have deployed all this logistics for just eight days of field work. Everyone is doing his utmost to catch up on lost time and sleeping hours are few. The kitchen is open from 7 am until midnight. 43 persons have to be fed and thanks to Hélène and Marion we have never eaten the same meal twice in the past three weeks.

As an extra pleasure, a sauna was open at the end of the afternoon on the back deck of the schooner and tonight we could see (I missed taking a photo but I swear this is true) a few scientists run naked on the pack ice, with just a towel around their loins to join the heated tent. Even in their period of glory, the Surrealists have not thought of this.
Etienne Bourgois and Eric Biegala