ITW with Mathieu Voluer: Bridging science and sailing

© N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

3 September 2015

Among the sailors aboard Tara, the youngest is a tall blond with angular features. 34-year-old Mathieu Voluer is a deck officer. He joined the crew in June to participate in the 2015 Tara Ecopolaris mission. With Tara Expeditions Mathieu can finally combine his passions: sailing, science and education. Portrait of a new team member.

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© N.Pansiot/Tara Expeditions

Mathieu chose the sea. The ocean is an integral part of both his professional and personal life. Since childhood he has fostered this passion: “I grew up near the water in Antibes in a family who loved sailing and free diving. I was almost born on a boat, built by my parents.”

At 19, he left France for a program in oceanography at the University of Hawaii. After completing a year of study in biogeochemistry, he stayed there to work with one of his professors conducting research on ocean acidification. Mathieu eventually decided to return home to do a Masters in environmental management: “I realized that I absolutely needed to be in contact with the sea. I chose to pursue this degree in Corte, Corsica. I then worked in the Bonifacio Strait Nature Reserve studying the interactions between fishing activities and dolphins.”

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© N.Pansiot/Tara Expeditions

At the end of his studies, Mathieu set aside science to become a professional sailor, but his interest in research did not diminish. After getting a captain’s license in England, he conveyed large sailing boats around the world and particularly enjoyed traversing the Pacific. Even when he’s not sailing for work, Mathieu never stays far away from the liquid element. He travels to meet other seafaring people, for example in Madagascar where he lived for 6 months in contact with the local fishermen. And he returns regularly to Polynesia, where he discovered a culture based on getting food from the sea.  The ocean is no longer a subject of study nor a playground for him. Polynesian friends initiated Mathieu to their culture and he learned empirically by their side. The word “transmission” often comes up in conversation. The young man seems driven by a desire to share his experiences with the very young, with his future children.

Aboard Tara, Mathieu doesn’t hesitate to give a hand in the kitchen. If he cooks, it’s because he enjoys good food. A true epicurean, he doesn’t believe in “depriving himself” and wants to “make the most of life”. Mathieu has been following Tara’s adventures for several years, but for professional reasons he didn’t encounter the schooner until recently. This summer, when he crossed paths with Tara, he didn’t hesitate: “For more than 3 years I’ve been trying to connect science and sailing. Navigating aboard Tara is a logical continuation.”

Interview by Noëlie Pansiot

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