Listening to Tara


12 June 2013

Despite Tara’s relatively small size, the explorer-schooner offers passengers various  spaces with very different ambiances familiar to permanent residents only. These settings are alive and above all, are experienced. But a few words, a well-placed microphone and a little imagination can give us a glimpse of life aboard Tara.

The rear deck

Recording 1 – Rear deck

Normally the rear deck is nothing more than an obligatory passage to get into Tara’s belly. But during a sampling station, these few square meters become the nerve center of the boat. Scientists and sailors intersect in a well-rehearsed ballet, their hands full of tubes, canisters or nets. This ongoing agitation culminates in the launching of the rosette. The team’s demeanor is intense, focused on the difficult task ahead. Is it fatigue and cold which hardens their features, or the weight of the responsibility that rests on the team? Nobody forgets that these samples are the raison d’être of the expedition. At the end of the steel cable, expensive equipment sways over the waves crashing at the workers’ feet. Between the clanking of restraining poles thrown on the metal deck, orders are given, short and precise. Finally, the rosette disappears beneath the surface. During these two days, the same scene will be replayed over and over again, about a dozen times.

The main salon
Recording 2 – Main living area

As a dining area, living room, office or conference room, the main cabin is the best place to be, so it’s rare to find it empty. One particular evening, the atmosphere is even more lively than usual. It’s the end of a station and a birthday celebration, two good opportunities to unwind. To mark the occasion, a white tablecloth and some home-made pastries put smiles on all faces. The atmosphere is even more playful since the day was arduous. Between the bursts of laughter and clinking glasses we debrief the day’s work, but just a little bit. We especially talk about everything else. Tales of the sea and navigators, more or less embellished as the evening advances. There’s teasing and and cheerful banter as people get to know each other and our 14 different backgrounds. The muffled music gradually gives way to more unbridled rhythms, attracting some adventurous dancers ready to rock with the ship’s roll. This sunny night will be long.

The workshop
Recording 3 – Workshop
For many Taranautes, the workshop is nothing more than a passage to the rear hold, an uncomfortable area with incessant engine noise, and a pervasive smell of diesel oil. Passengers only come through here for the shortest possible time, to access the clothes washing machine. They may run into a mechanic all dressed in blue, wearing goggles and headphones. But for anyone who wants to repair a propeller, pump or motor, the workshop is a handyman’s treasure trove. In an apparent jumble, pliers, screwdrivers, drills and tools of all kinds cover the floor and walls around the small workbench. Continuing the exploration – you bend low to pass through a narrow opening, and enter another world – the engine room. Stifling heat, deafening noise, and a constant smell. Welcome to Tara’s bowels.

The foredeck
Recording 4 – The front deck
With 14 Jonahs aboard Tara the whale, constantly crowded into a limited space, the desire to escape momentarily from the agitation can arise. Tara’s foredeck regularly hosts a passenger looking for solitude, silence and calm. Wearing a warm jacket and a life vest, you move towards the schooner’s bow, carefully stepping around ropes and winches, as the sounds of engines finally fade into the background. On Tara’s prow, faced with the immensity of the ocean, your ears begin to pick up previously inaudible sounds. Here, the lapping of waves on the hull, the wind in the sails, and in the distance, the monotonous tapping of rigging on the mast. This perpetual concert is disturbed only by the passage of a seabird or with luck, a few dolphins. No doubt about it –  out here time runs at a different pace from Tara’s center. 

Text: Yann Chavance

Sound: Agnès Rougier