On land and looking back

© Noelie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions

16 March 2017

[After finishing her thesis on data from the Tara Oceans expedition in Chris Bowler’s lab at ENS d’Ulm, Flora Vincent embarked on Tara for the first time at Wallis to sample plankton during the Tara Pacific expedition. She debarked at Fukuoka, JAPAN. ]

We’ve finally arrived on the main archipelago of Japan, where Tara is making an extended stopover for historical and scientific reasons: Japan has been a fan of agnès b for 30 years and is home to a wide variety of coral reefs. For the occasion they don’t do things half-way: we raised the sails under a brilliant sun and our entrance into the bay of Fukuoka was accompanied by a NHK television helicopter that circled around us! Perched on Tara’s mast, I was ecstatic to see the modern world again, lost from view for 2 months.


Visite_Flora_credit_NPansiot_P2140206Marin biologist, Flora Vincent, getting interviewed by NHK,  Japanese television channel at her arrival in Fukuoka © Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions


For 3 days we’ve been reconnected. The day after our arrival in Fukuoka, Japanese television came on board and a report was broadcast on the main channel that same evening. Some of the scientists and sailors disembarked, relayed by part of the Paris team that came as reinforcement for the numerous stopovers, and they brought along something very bizarre: a WiFi box. After waiting for the 2,300 WhatsApp messages to synchronize, I became aware of the time spent on board because it caught up with us. An announcement of pregnancy, a split-up, a birth, many parties — in short a parallel life that continued without us.

For the school visits, I was grouped with Till, another scientist, Maki the artist-in-residence and Nico the first mate. 120 students in one morning, 4 hours to explain the history of the schooner, the research, Tara’s missions, personal anecdotes, accompanied by Maki’s first paintings that recall the real creative links between art and science.

Sharing my new experience with high school students, raising public awareness – these have replaced the imperatives of science and navigation. I slowly realize that I am participating in something that surpasses me completely: a unique synthesis of 3 poles which converge around a shared passion for the marine world.



P2140490Biologist Flora Vincent introduces school children to Tara using drawings by Maki, artist-in-residence aboard © Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions


I spent 2 months talking to the same 14 people, and in 4 hours I reconnected thanks to visitors and journalists on board as well as the out-of-phase WhatsApp notifications. For 2 months, my life has been patterned by science, navigation and community life away from all terrestrial pre-occupations. It’s perhaps the most bizarre feeling I’ve had in recent days: creating the bridge between my life of the last 2 months and “before”. It’s like a vine that weaves itself between life on land and this universe that I’ve discovered. I admire the sailors who find their balance between these 2 worlds, for whom embarkations can last 6 months, because for now my brain still hasn’t understood what’s taking place.

Today, what brings me back to earth is precisely what Tara has been doing for years. The desire to share an adventure, to witness, understand and preserve a wonderful treasure. Above all, we must take on our responsibility as scientists, sailors and citizens to raise awareness of the changes taking place on this Blue Planet. I’ve become a Taranaut.

Flora Vincent

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