Heading for Greenland

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9 October 2013

Heading for Greenland

Since Wednesday morning, Tara has been under sail for Greenland. With this Northwest wind at 60 km/hr, we’re making eight knots and will arrive in a little over 24 hours near the coast of this giant island, about 95% of which is covered with ice. Romian Troublé, General Secretary of Tara Expeditions has joined us for this leg between Canada and Greenland.

After the sampling station on Tuesday along the Baffin Island coast, the sailors raised the sails this morning: the staysail at the front, the foresail and a reefed main sail due to the wind. A typical maneuver which takes about 3/4 of an hour, and with the wind and the cold was especially invigorating and intricate. The deck was covered with a layer of partially melted snow which made it more difficult to move. “You have to have your sea legs and a skater’s feet this morning,” remarked a jovial Loïc Vallette, our captain, at the beginning of the manoeuvre.

Yesterday, the scientific team experienced ​​an extraordinary sampling station. Almost all the nets brought up rich and varied plankton. Plentiful copepods, diatoms, and krill, but also a showstopper — ctenophores of a size rarely seen since the beginning of Tara Oceans. The carbon pump must function here at full speed with such a quantity of micro-organisms. This long station was designed to sample the cold Arctic waters at different depths, and the warmer ones from the Atlantic which overlap here.

Today, we are heading towards Greenland, with beautiful light and occasionally a large iceberg that first we identify by radar before admiring the real thing. But at this rate, crossing the sea will be rapid.

The Baffin Sea (or Bay) is a vast gulf open to the Atlantic through the Labrador Sea and nestled between eastern Greenland and Baffin Island to the west. The Baffin Sea, named in honor of the British explorer William Baffin, measures 1500 km in length and 550 km in width. It is covered with ice most of the year, so we must make the crossing before this layer reforms.

Once we’ve reached the other side, each of the 14 people on board will be able to explore the west coast of this white country, with glaciers amongst the largest in the world. This also explains why there are only 56,370 inhabitants on Kalaallit Nunaat*. The harsh climate and the preponderance of the ice cap make it the least densely-populated country in the world.

Vincent Hilaire

* Kalaallit Nunaat: The name given to their land by the Greenlanders