THE GATES TO GREENLAND SEEM TO HAVE OPENED

© N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

27 July 2015

Tara repeats her attempt and for the second time sets North on course for Greenland. The schooner left the port of Akureyri yesterday hoping to find calm sea at the exit from the icelandic fjords.

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The sailboat is motor-sailing peacefully, so the stomachs of our recently-boarded crew have nothing to fear from this swell. Everyone takes their marks and gets on with their respective tasks. Among them is Gabriel Gorsky, director of the Oceanological Observatory of Villefranche-sur-Mer, who is working on deck, accompanying documentary filmmaker, Christophe Cousin. Gaby needs to be fitted with a lapel microphone as filming is about to begin.

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9:40, the cameras are shooting as our first Manta net is launched with help from the sailors. This scientific protocol is well established, a series of actions carried out with ease, repeated so many times before in previous missions. Beneath the bubble-like window that caps Tara, our wiz of a chef is already preparing a meal for 15 Taranautes.  The smell of those lovely little simmering vegetables reaches all the way to the communal computer room where captain Martin Hertau is checking his emails. A native of Saint-Malo, Brittany, the captain opens up the precious NASA satellite map and says, in an upbeat tone, to Olivier Gilg, researcher from GREA (Arctic Ecology Research Group): “Look at this, you’re going to like this! That confirms it, the movement of ice we were hoping for seems to have begun. Perhaps the gates will open in the next few days. We just have to keep our fingers crossed!” For Martin, it’s already time to go back up on deck to help raise the first Manta, as our 30 minutes of sampling time have elapsed.

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Still in front of the computer, Olivier continues his careful analysis of the maps: “We’re halfway between Iceland and Greenland. So we’re going to try and pass through the south of Scoresby Sund where there’s always a bit less ice. There are strong currents at this site which prevent ice from forming throughout the winter. Here the ice can be pushed away, and that’s what we want. On the other hand, depending on the wind, we could get trapped and be pushed towards the fjord. That’s what’s been happening over the last 10 days, forcing Tara to back-pedal. This time though, it seems like we have quite favorable winds. So for the next 3 or 4 days our passage might be completely open. We’re going to head for Brewster Cape, home to a large colony of birds that we’d like to count.

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Christophe Cousin and Fitzgerald Jego, head cameraman of the 110-minute documentary being made for France 3, are busy filming on deck with a handheld video camera. We need to capture some scenes of the net before arriving at the ice this evening at which point we won’t be able to use it.

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On the large outdoor worktable a small white drone equipped with a camera sits alongside precious samples teeming with microorganisms. The device is about to take off on its first tour to film a whale from overhead. Before that, we have to hoist the sails and show off the schooner in her best light. Tightrope-walking sailors enter the scene: our first-mate Mathieu Voluer steps along the boom to release the sail. Everyone is at their post. “Silence, camera, action!

Noëlie Pansiot

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