Tara has entered the Davis Strait

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22 October 2013

Since our departure from Ilulissat, we carried out a first sampling station in Disko Bay. We are now heading south. Tara will cross tonight the Arctic Circle at 66° 33′ North. We’ll have turned a page after a 5-month expedition which took place mainly to the north of this line.

A glassy sea, bright sun, no wind and slightly positive temperatures, the journey south along Greenland’s west coast is taking place in good conditions. Our next “stop” at sea is scheduled for Wednesday with a long scientific station, lasting more than 24 hours. Today the scientific team was occupied with equipment maintenance and conducted a station while underway. This is possible because seawater is pumped through Tara’s hull and allows sampling without needing to stop.

Just after leaving Disko Bay, on the first night we entered the Davis Strait which connects the Arctic with the Labrador Sea. This sea is an extension of the Atlantic Ocean between Labrador and Greenland.

Fairly strong winds are expected by the end of this week. Martin Hertau, our captain who took over from Loïc Vallette, plans to take shelter near Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, in case of heavy weather. It’s the island’s most populous city — 16,181 inhabitants (in 2012) of Greenland’s 56,749 total. Nuuk is located approximately 240 kilometers from the Arctic Circle, and its port is the largest in the whole country. Nuuk means “headland” in Greenlandic, and has been so-named only since 1979. Before it was called Godthab which means “good hope” in Danish. In November 2008, the citizens of Nuuk voted overwhelmingly in favor of greater independence from the Kingdom of Denmark.

Three major ocean currents traverse the Labrador Sea: a cold current that follows Greenland’s coast, one that descends Labrador’s length, and a third, warmer one originating from the Atlantic. This is what the new team, led by chief scientist Eric Karsenti, the man who conceived the Tara Oceans expeditions, intends to characterize.

Vincent Hilaire