New team plus new coral mission for Tara at Mayotte

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3 June 2010

New team plus new coral mission for Tara at Mayotte

We arrive at Mayotte and it’s a sight for sore eyes. Time once again for the scientists on the boat to be replaced by a new team.
 
After a month onboard, Celine, Sarah, Columban, Ian, Sacha and Camilla disembark.
It was a month spent collecting plankton and studying the oceans’ micro-organisms. At the same time it was a month spent living together at sea, sailing between Reunion and Mayotte. We said our goodbyes with some sadness. 
 
We swap ocean, plankton, protozoa and other eukaryotes, for lagoon, polyps, coral, seaweed and all kinds of fish. The team changes and so does the research, there is new territory to explore.
 
Of the four main islands of the Comoros archipelago, Mayotte occupies the easternmost position. Frequented by Europeans since the sixteenth century, the island was annexed by the French in 1843. Following a referendum in 1974, Mayotte chose to remain French while the other three islands opted for independence. The Mahorais upheld this decision in a new referendum in 1976.
 
From a strictly geographical point of view, the island is surrounded by a coral reef which spans over 150 km, creating exceptional conditions for marine flora and fauna.
A great variety of animal species mingle here: turtles, dolphins, swordfish, dugongs, whales… over 22 species of marine mammals and nearly 600 types of fish. It’s a diver’s paradise!
 
Another distinctive feature of Mayotte’s waters is its tidal range. Between the full tides there is a difference in water height of up to 4 meters. The lagoon, when exposed, reveals sand banks and coral reefs at ground-level. The barrier reef, which forms a double outer ring in the south, is unique in being situated at such a great distance from the island it surrounds. Mayotte is home to more than 200 species of coral.
 
The lagoon is dotted with many tiny islands each with its own history, like that of “The Four Brothers”.
The legend tells of four brothers who, in defiance of the custom, went fishing on a day of worship. They were turned into stone and became this cluster of four islands.
 
Valerian Morzadec