Tara is back in Rapa Nui

© Yann Chavance / Fondation Tara Expéditions

2 September 2016

The schooner and her crew finally arrived on Wednesday in Easter Island – here called Rapa Nui. The few hours gained over the last days thanks to favorable winds will be put to good use during the upcoming week to complete the busy schedule awaiting us.

Tara has actually been in the vicinity of Easter Island for a while. Since Tuesday evening, the small island has been displayed on the radar screen, but the wait was extended by a succession of sampling stations at various distances from shore. For the scientific team, the objective was to study the island influence on plankton composition: a protocol dedicated to this “island effect” that will be reproduced each time Tara approaches new land during her expedition in the Pacific Ocean. At the last sampling station at dawn on Wednesday, scientists had the pleasure between 2 net immersions in the water, to discover the first rays of sunlight gradually illuminating Rapa Nui.

 

Credits Yann Chavance - Rapa Nui-1
On Wednesday, August 31, 2016, Tara arrived within view of Easter Island in the South Pacific © Yann Chavance / Tara Expeditions Foundation

 

It wasn’t until the afternoon, after completing the scientific protocols, that Tara anchored in front of Hanga Roa, the only town on the Chilean island. After the day’s end solely dedicated to administrative and customs formalities, the crew finally set foot on land the next morning and discovered their first Moais, the island iconic statues sculpted in gigantic granite monoliths. A few hours of respite to discover the beauty of this remote island – one of the most isolated inhabited lands in the world – and its archaeological treasures. Some leisure time that will become rarer in the next few days: the planned agenda for the week is extremely busy.

 

FRA_2138
© François Aurat / Tara Expeditions Foundation

 

This port of call is an opportunity to welcome new members on board: no fewer than 7 newcomers are expected this week, including the dive team. The divers will need to recover quickly from their 30 hours of flight as they have to start working underwater this week-end to study Rapa Nui’s corals. In parallel to the scientific dives, the stopover will also be an opportunity to welcome children on board: Thanks to Rapa Nui Ocean, a local NGO, a group of students working on conservation of ocean and island resources will visit the schooner if the weather conditions allow them to board.

With the same goal of sharing knowledge with the populations encountered during the Tara Pacific expedition, a public lecture will be held on shore next Tuesday. The objective is of course to present the scientific purposes of our visit to Rapa Nui, but also to present the first results of the Tara Oceans expedition: in 2011, Tara had already anchored in these waters during her 21/2-year round-the-world tour studying plankton. On the occasion of this “Past & Present” conference, the crew will be joined by biologist Eric Karsenti (EMBL-CNRS) – Tara Oceans’ scientific “father” – and André Abreu, in charge of Climate & Environment Policy, who came especially for the occasion. Once this busy program is completed, Tara will resume her course next Wednesday evening, heading due west.

Yann Chavance

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