25 April 2014
This famous Strait is a true knot in the center of four cardinal points: Europe to the north, Africa to the south, the Atlantic to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the east. Tara entered the Mediterranean on April 25 – our new field of investigation for the next 7 months.
Gibraltar is also a city – since 1704, a British enclave in Spain, now a free zone, a “pied à terre” in the Mediterranean for the English, and a place for monitoring maritime traffic – a rock evolved into a real naval base.
Arriving from the Atlantic, you first see Tarifa, a port well-known to windsurfing and kite-surfing fans. Given the number of windy days in the year, this city is an ideal place for wind-sport aficionados. Tarifa is nestled at the water’s edge, below hills topped with hundreds of wind turbines. Winds blow alternately from west to east or east to west, depending on the season.
40 km long and 8 km wide, the Strait of Gibraltar is a narrow stretch between Spain and Morocco, through which a huge part of global maritime transport – goods and raw materials – passes. Its particular location makes this a site for all kinds of trafficking, including drugs and refugees: Gibraltar represents the ultimate test, the final stop in the odyssey of Africans who have paid their rite of passage with money saved by their families for years. Their goal is to reach Europe, an eldorado crystallizing dreams of success and better lives, but the outcome of their voyage is often tragic.
This strait is a naturally-formed opening into the Mediterranean. Today Tara is passing through, amidst bustling activity, to start her next mission.
A salute to the rock guarding the entrance, Tara dons her complete wardrobe – mainsail, foresail, yankee and staysail– and takes advantage of Gibraltar’s venturi effect, gliding into warmer, saltier waters.
This is a reunion for Tara. In 2004 and 2009, the schooner already sailed this sea, taking samples of plankton during the Tara Oceans expedition.