27 May 2010
Tuesday 25th May, 1.40pm. Drifting at latitude 13°06′ South, longitude 46°58′ East, Tara’s scientists are busy at work. Hervé, the captain, climbs on deck: « Everyone stop what you’re doing, we’re getting out of here! ».
Always on the lookout, he has just received a call on the iridium telephone from the Coastal Patrol service of the French military’s General Staff on Reunion: « we have been informed of a possible attempted act of piracy in your vicinity at 11am this morning ».
After further investigation it transpires that we are 8 nautical miles (15 km) from a Spanish fishing vessel, presumably the target.
Decision made. We head south, engines at 8 knots, extra lookouts, surveillance radar. The crew is on high alert, binoculars in hand.
Never mind that the shift, which began at 10pm last night, has to be cut short. It is unfortunate for the team of scientists as they have only managed to collect a small portion of the samples they were hoping for. They are particularly disappointed because the harvest was looking so promising.
Earlier that morning Tara’s crew had spotted a small unidentified craft not far from the boat, which is quite unusual for this region. Whether it was just a fishing boat or something other than that we’ll never know.
Before departing from Diego Suarez, Hervé, erring on the side of caution, had made some inquiries of a tuna seiner moored close to us at the dock. He and this Spanish captain had examined maps and compared information. Up until now this region had seemed so peaceful.
As soon as the alert is made the General Staff offers to direct us towards a nearby naval vessel which is ready to join us in case of any trouble. However, as this navigation option would take longer it is deemed equally risky, so instead Tara heads back to the Western Cape. We sail all night keeping a close eye on the horizon and on any suspicious radar echoes. Our lights are off and our positioning system is down to avoid being detected, all the while we remain in constant radio contact with the military base in Mayotte.
Thanks to the sophisticated means of communication at our disposal and the contacts which have been established, Tara was able to make good decisions. Once again the solidarity of seafarers has prevailed.
We are now peacefully anchored in the lagoon of Mayotte.