3 January 2007
20th day of drift.
Position: 83°44’N, 137°49’E
Course and Speed: NW, 0.1 knots
Wind: S, 5 knots
Sea Ice: Stable
Visibility: Excellent, clear sky
Air Temperature: -35°C
Water Temperature: -1.7°C
Interview with Grant Redvers
Grant, you are from New Zealand and you are the expedition leader of our drift, can you tell us how you came to be on board? Did you previously navigate with Sir Peter Blake, who was also from New Zealand?
The first time I saw the boat was in 2000 in Auckland, Peter Blake was in the process of preparing Seamaster for an expedition to Antarctica. I proposed my services for this expedition but he already had a full crew. Instead I departed on a more modest expedition to Patagonia, the Antarctic Peninsula and South Georgia on a small yacht. We undertook glaciological research and took the opportunity to climb a few mountains. However, I kept in contact with Peter, hopeful that one day I could join his expedition programme. After his tragic death I became aware that Etienne Bourgois had bought the boat, with intentions of continuing a programme of environmental based expeditions. I sent my CV to all of the Agnes b outlets around the world because I did not have an address for Etienne. While he might have though I was a bit crazy he also took it as a sign of motivation. Later I met Etienne in New Zealand and he proposed I join Tara as diver / deckhand the following year. After two years on board he then asked if I could be the expedition leader for the Arctic drift.
Can you tell us what a typical day on board involves for you?
I start my day as postman, after breakfast checking emails and replying to urgent requests. After this, like every member of the crew I have my weekly task, for example breaking ice for freshwater, cooking etc, activities that we complete in pairs. Then I usually make a tour of the different work projects of the day to see if everything is going ok, helping out where I can. At the end of the day I prepare the English logs, and send emails and photos to Paris. To relax I often play the bongo or Guitar in my cabin and organise different activities and parties on board for everyone to relax.
Since the start of the drift what has been the most difficult moment for you in terms of decisions you have had to make as expedition leader?
The ice break up in September has been the most difficult moment. During this event we had the ice disintegrate around us, we were once again in open water, however with no rudders and all of our scientific material dispersed on the ice pack. During the recovery operation, after a few nights with very little sleep and with all of the crew very tired, I had to manage the level of risk and make the decision about stopping or continuing with the recovery. It was a moment very dangerous with everyone putting in the maximum physical effort but we had to push the limits to recover the scientific material and continue the expedition.
Your crew are French and Russian, two cultures that are know for their poor discipline, is this difficult to manage?
At the start I did not understand the subtleties of the language, this allowed me to cut out
a lot of the noise and focus on the essential issues. However, now that I understand the details better I manage to take everything in good humour, realising that everyone tries to do their best, but the best for one is not always compatible with the best of someone else.
Are you thinking about staying until the end of the drift, two years?
I have always wanted to keep the option to stay until the end because leaving after half of the expedition leaves me with an impression of not completing my mission. To stay for two years without seeing family and friends will be challenging but I am motivated to stay with this adventure, we will see!
You have the reputation to cook as good as, if not better than the French. Where did your culinary talents come from?
My parents had a small restaurant for a few years when I was a child. I think I probably inherited some of their passion for food and cooking.
Last question: We recently celebrated the mid winter. You took the opportunity to say thanks to all of the crew for the hard work put in since the start of the drift. We had the impression that in the southern hemisphere this is an important date?
It’s an important party in all of the polar regions, whether it’s in the Antarctic or Arctic. It is a moment psychologically very significant because after the solstice the sun effectively begins to slowly rise again. A winter without the sun has a huge biological impact and when the return begins. We are looking forward to the suns return late February.