22 November 2017
After 39 hours traveling from Paris to Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea, the popular expression “You have to earn it” makes sense. Samuel Audrain, incoming captain, Marion Lauters, sailor/cook, and Daniel Cron, deck officer, will no doubt agree. The 4 of us have just crossed the globe by plane to relay disembarking teammates. Here’s the story of my trip.
After a somewhat tumultuous departure on Friday at 18:30, the evening of a soccer match that made the north of Paris as congested as a Cairo crossroads in daytime, I boarded a flight from Paris to Dubai. After settling in on the first plane, a Airbus A380, I take the full measure of the journey that awaits me: 4 flights and nearly 15,000 km to go. I’m already thinking about the next 3 months of mission to discover the famous Coral Triangle, the epicenter of marine biodiversity on the planet. According to some scientists, it was here that everything may have started. Corals most likely spread to the rest of the planet from this place.
The list of potential topics to deal with in writing or video runs in my head. The first that comes to my mind is largely inspired by the number of single-use disposables on the plane. I think of the figures that will appear in a future article dedicated to plastic pollution. Even though I hold out my cup for a refill, the stewardesses systematically hand me a new cup, already full. And when, driven by my ecological instinct, I ask about recycling, they answer with a surprised look and a negative nod of the head.
Noëlie Pansiot, correspondante de bord, fera de nouveau partie de l’équipage jusqu’aux Philippines - © Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions
Paris – Dubai – Brisbane – Port Moresby – Kimbe Bay. Three planes later and X plastic cups in the trash, I’m at the exit of the international airport of Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea. It’s humid and hot and I’m smiling as I walk towards the domestic terminal for a last flight. Direction Kimbe Bay, in the province of New Britain, located on the largest island in the Bismarck Archipelago. This large bay is among the major sites of the Coral Triangle and counts 60% of the species present in the Indo-Pacific zone.
The 4th plane, operated by the only local airline, has only 36 seats. I sit next to a porthole thinking I’ll enjoy the view at takeoff. I scrutinize the interior of the old plane, which seems to have already exceeded its quota of flying hours. But sleepiness has the best of my worries.
An hour later, a hand on my shoulder wakes me gently from sleep. My neighbor explains: “We have to change aircraft. This one has a technical problem.” Our plane hasn’t moved a centimeter!
Kimbe Bay, lieu de destination de notre correspondante de bord, Noëlie, qui embarque à bord de Tara pour 3 mois - © Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions
I gather my belongings and head for plane number 4b. Regina, 50 years old, sits down next to me and confesses, “I prayed to God to change planes. He answered me!” I thank her. To have come all this way and see nothing of the Papuan territory would have been rather disappointing. We continue talking and the charming teacher explains that we’re not very far from Hoskins airport: “When we fly over a large stretch of oil palms, that means we’ve arrived.”
Outside my porthole, rows of palm trees have replaced a thick forest and we land safely. Paris is only an old memory. In a couple of hours the 2 masts of the schooner will stand before me, in a bay at the end of the world. I’ll find almost the same crew that I left a little over 4 months ago in Fiji. But before that, I’ll take a nap.
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