Time to wait

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21 August 2013

Since Sunday, Tara has been anchored at the entrance to the Vilkitsky Strait. We are waiting for the powerful Yamal, the Russian nuclear icebreaker that will enable us to pass through the white barrier.

For 3 days, activity on board has slowed down. Even the most active people are beginning to go around in circles. Like the lyrics of a broken record, the words “icebreaker” and “Vilkitsky Strait” get repeated all day long in conversations. Patience is the name of the game, so we’re biding our time, hoping to hoist the anchor soon and continue our scientific mission in the Laptev Sea.

“We just have to be patient; it’s part of the adventure. Above all, we must remain humble before nature.” This is the philosophy of Vincent Pennec, first mate. So, to pass the time, everybody is busy accomplishing the few tasks still left to do.

Claudie Marec and Simon Morisset, the 2 oceanographic engineers, have embarked on a comprehensive inventory of the measurements made so far on board. Pascal Hingamp and Margaux Carmichael have cleaned and polished Tara’s scientific equipment “like never before.” A manual activity to forget that science has been relegated to the background these past few days.

As for the sailors, they’re taking care of ship maintenance. We must be ready, ready to go, ready at any moment! On the bridge, we take turns watching out for threatening pieces of ice. Hunting ice cubes is one of the fun activities on board, and turns out to be much more productive than fishing! “There are very few fish in this area, and with ambient temperatures being what they are, we don’t spend hours outside just for the pleasure of fishing!” says François Aurat with a smile.

Sergey Pisarev, Russian scientist on board, nevertheless persists every day in fishing, but a special kind of fishing –  for information. Starting at 8 o’clock in the morning, he moves heaven and earth to get fresh news from the “front.” Thanks to his scientific colleagues who are crisscrossing the region, he finds out about ice conditions, the movements of ships through the Vilkitsky Strait, and tries to figure out solutions. “I learned this morning that 2 research vessels are navigating near the strait. I will call them to ask for advice.”

At the table in the main cabin, oceanographer Diana Ruiz Pino is preparing a presentation for the next “science cafe” – a way for us to learn new things and diversify our evening activities. Despite these occupations, the hours seem long. Some people devour books, other slices of bread and butter. Some do sports, others take naps. We must be clever so that the very long days do not seem endless. We need to find ways for the close quarters to remain bearable.

Yesterday afternoon, everyone sat down together and watched a Thalassa program about Dudinka. In one of the sequences, a Russian research vessel’s crew was spending their fifth month imprisoned in the ice. We were almost ashamed to feel bored after only 3 days.

 

Anna Deniaud Garcia