Video: “Ocean and Science days” at the Tara Pavilion

During these first days of the COP21, 40 scientists have took turns presenting their work on climate change, its impact on the Pacific Islands, the situation in the Arctic, and also the first inhabitants of the oceans: planktonic organisms.

© Y.Chavance/Tara Expéditions

COP21: small islands hold the place of honor at the Tara Pavilion

On Tuesday December 2, the Tara Pavilion devoted an entire day to the issues confronting small islands and their vulnerability to climate change, with a series of conferences and debates to highlight the challenges faced by islands nations at a time of climate change.

Kiribati, Maldives, Palau, etc. Island nations are the first victims of climate disruptions, in particular rising sea levels. Their representatives have been sounding the alarm since the end of the 1980s due to the reality of the threats to small islands. After a series of conferences highlighting the links between climate and ocean, it was logical that the Tara “Ocean & Climate” Pavilion organized a day dedicated to this issue.

Three conference cycles open to the general public were thus devoted to the impacts of climate change on coral reefs, solutions for a development compatible with climate risks, and challenges to be met in terms of adaptation and risk limitation. Among experts, scientists and NGO representatives addressing the conferences, were also policy makers who are in the front line of these upcoming changes – including Philippe Germain, President of the government of New Caledonia, and Tommy Remengesau, President of the Republic of Palau.

“The ocean is life. It’s central to our culture, economy and identity” reminded Tommy Remengesau to the Tara Pavilion’s audience. “Thanks to all these discussions, especially in small groups as here, we can truly propose realistic solutions to those who are the most affected by climate change.” And the 21,000 inhabitants of the archipelago of Palau are undoubtedly amongst the most affected, like any other island populations of the Pacific Ocean. For all these islands, the threats are often the same.

First and foremost is rising sea levels, consequence of the warming of the oceans which causes their expansion and the melting of glaciers. With an average elevation of 17 centimeters during the 20th century, low-lying islands have seen their lands gradually submerged by the ocean. Another already visible threat is ocean acidification and warming that especially endanger coral reefs. Tara will focus on this crucial issue during her next expedition in 2016, studying coral reefs in Asia and the Pacific Ocean.

The list of the consequences of climate change on small islands goes on: probable intensification of hurricanes, severe degradation of mangroves, viability of several populations called into question, etc. Climate change may remain somewhat abstract for many Westerners; on the contrary, island populations are already witnessing its first effects. “Although I’m on the front line regarding what’s happening with climate change, I’m also struck by the fact that small islands are a window on what could affect the rest of the world” said Tommy Remengesau. Indeed, if small islands are currently the most concerned, they may augur the future of most coastal areas on the planet.

Interview by Yann Chavance, correspondent aboard

 

Related articles:

- COP21: discover Tara’s program at the Paris Climate Conference

- Video: “Ocean and Science Days” at the Tara Pavilion

- 11 countries signed the “Because the Ocean” declaration at Tara’s Pavilion

Video: inauguration of Tara’s “Ocean and Climate” Pavilion

On November 12, 2015 the Tara “Ocean & Climate” Pavilion was inaugurated in Paris near the Pont Alexandre III in the presence of Ségolène Royal, Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, Irina Bokova, general director of UNESCO, and agnès b., designer and co-founder Tara Expeditions.

The 600 m2 space installed on the banks of the Seine aims to show the important role played by the ocean in the global climate – A place for scientific meetings, discussions, discoveries and civic engagement appealing to a very wide public.

Throughout Tara’s new exhibition “The Ocean in the 21st Century” you will learn more about the role of the ocean in climate, the essential services the ocean provides us, and the solutions it can offer to global warming.

The visit ends with an immersion in the biodiversity of the ocean. Thanks to an aquarium equipped with cameras set up by Oceanopolis (Brest), you can explore the marine life of the Brittany coast.  Facilitators tell stories of Ocean and Climate, explaining the impacts of climate change on marine life and the solutions developed from projects involving scientists and industrials in Brittany.

A series of lectures for the general public and specialists, and screenings of documentary films are programmed.

Learn about the program

VIDEO : Tara is in Paris!

The Tara team has been hard at work for a long time preparing to participate in the upcoming 2015 Paris Climate conference (COP21). To pass under the bridges of the Seine, Tara’s masts had to be taken down. Then for 3 days, the schooner went up the river. At quay, the masts were re-installed to get Tara ready for her opening to the public on Saturday, November 14. The Tara “Ocean & Climate” Pavilion will open on November 13. Discover this impressive feat and the hoisting maneuvers involved in video. The research schooner will be docked near the Pont Alexandre III until December 18.

Click here to discover Tara’s program

© N.Pansiot / Tara Expeditions.org

Video: Exhibition “Tara: Journey to the Heart of the Climate Machine” in Nantes (France)

The schooner Tara arrived on October 14 in Nantes (France), but the exhibition “Journey to the Heart of the Climate Machine” has been present on the Island of Nantes since September 26. Over the past 4 weeks more than 10,000 people have walked through multi-media displays describing 2 of Tara’s emblematic expeditions – Tara Arctic and Tara Oceans. An excellent opportunity to learn about the mechanisms that closely link climate and ocean.

 

©C.Lesacq/Tara Expéditions

En route to Nantes, last stopover before the 2015 Paris Climate Conference

After a month of rest and work in Lorient, Tara left her home port at dawn on Wednesday, October 14, heading for Nantes. The schooner has been invited to take part in “GreenWeek”, an event dedicated to sustainable development. For Tara Expéditions, these 10 days in Nantes are a crucial final stopover before Paris and the COP21.

Dark and cloudy night over the port of Lorient. It’s 5am and first sounds can be heard aboard Tara. Soon engine noises fill the schooner, and each sailor takes up his position: the somewhat sleepy machine needs to be given a kick start after 3 weeks of being idle. The trip will be short: 90 miles separate Lorient from Nantes, Tara’s next and last stopover before sailing up the Seine to Paris.

Once the crew has hoisted the foresail and mainsail, exiting Lorient harbor goes smoothly, shortly after 6am. The schooner is moving at good speed – 8 knots instead of the average 6. After passing the island of Groix, sky and sea – the same shade of light grey – gradually are tinted pink. In the light of a reddening sun,Tara sails between Belle-Île-en-Mer and the Quiberon peninsula.

During the morning, the effervescence of departure subsides, and clouds disperse, leaving behind a soft light. A relative calm settles on board, accentuated by the shutdown of one of the engines. “As soon as there’s a little wind, Tara sails really well. To be ecological, we turn off an engine and hoist the third jib called the yankee” explains Captain Martin Hertau. Between 10am and 11am, we pass the islands of Houat and Hoëdic on the port side.

After an invigorating lunch (no cook aboard, but with the good care of Sylvie Duboué, president of the association “Les Amis de Tara”), we pass offshore Le Pouliguen and La Baule and continue smoothly to Nantes. The sky is cloudless. Aboard the schooner we all know these 10 days in Nantes mark a doubly symbolic milestone: 1) the presence of Tara for the city’s first Greenweek and 2) our last stopover before the COP21. Tara has been invited by Nantes Metropole for Greenweek, and as part of a bi-annual event, the Climate rendez-vous. Participating in such an event and supporting a city that wants to reduce by 50% its gas emissions by the year 2030, is totally relevant for Tara  – a prelude to the 2015 Paris Climate negotiations beginning the end of next month.

Shortly before 4pm, Tara passes under the impressive Saint-Nazaire bridge, signal that the scientific schooner has definitely left the ocean for the Loire. After 4 hours of navigation on the river, Tara will arrive late in the day in the city that has long been called the “Venice of the West”.

Clémence Lesacq

Related articles:

- Discover Tara’s program at the 2015 Paris Climate conference (COP21) (will soon be available in English)

- Follow Tara live video through our multi-media library

 

Home sweet home

After a week of encounters and exchanges in London, Tara is on the final stretch this friday, September 18, returning to Lorient, her home port.

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©P.Planté/Tara Expéditions

Leaving London and descending the Thames River at sunset, Tara spent a first quiet night at sea and woke up in the morning in French territorial waters. Life on board is regaining its normal rhythm. Everyone goes about their daily activities and also takes some time to relax. A moment of recreation on the deck gives us the opportunity to catch sight of the slender fins of common dolphins. Moments later, a whole pod is playing in front of the schooner’s bow. Much to everyone’s delight, our traveling companions escort us with style and rapidity. “The presence of dolphins has to be merited!” points out Captain Martin Hertau with a broad smile.

A true moment of grace when light and clouds come together offering a spectacle of great beauty, worthy of an impressionist watercolor. White and anthracite clouds gather on the horizon, with just enough wind to fill the sails so the schooner manages to dodge the next rainfall.

Tara toutes voiles dehors pour son retour au port de Lorient

Tara under full sail returning to Lorient, her home port. ©P.Planté/Tara Expéditions

The next day, sailing goes smoothly. The crew is getting slightly impatient however. We’re laughing, teasing each other as the end of the journey approaches, and we all begin to think about the near future, once docked at the Breton port. Preparation for upcoming work on the schooner is already in people’s minds.

Loïc Caudan, all-around sailor and mechanic aboard will reunite with his family here – an eagerly awaited moment for this Breton by adoption who chose to settle down in Lorient. During the period of work on the schooner, this future dad can enjoy being with his family while waiting for the birth of his first child at the end of the year.

Loïc Caudan, mécanicien et marin polyvalent à bord, durant son quart de nuit.

Loïc Caudan, mechanic and sailor, on night watch. ©P.Planté/Tara Expéditions

Another night on board and for his last shift, Loïc will follow the route towards the Finistère. In the area of Ouessant with its strong current, named the “Fromveur”, sailors must remain vigilant and not miss the signals. A delicate passage in the Chenal du Four, a precise course aligned with the Pointe Saint-Mathieu and the Kermorvan lighthouse, and it’s done! In the starry night, the Pointe du Raz can be made out in the distance. With her sails billowing and an average speed of 7 knots, Tara will have to navigate a few more miles before passing the Bay of Audierne.

For our last afternoon at sea, the sun is shining on the Brittany coast. In the wheelhouse, a tune from Django Reinhardt. Tara is speeding up. Opposite the island of Groix, the crew decides to hoist the biggest sail, the 200-square-meter spinnaker. Full speed ahead towards a welcoming Lorient. After a 3-week pause for maintenance work on the schooner,Tara will head for Nantes to join the first Green Week organized in the region, dedicated to sustainable development. A stopover scheduled from October 15 to 24, before Tara sails to Paris for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21).

By Pauline Planté, correspondent aboard

 

Video: From the deep sea to DNA

On the way to the Paris Climate conference, Tara made a stopover in London. Eric Karsenti – scientific director of the Tara Oceans expedition that circumnavigated the globe between 2009 and 2012 – summarizes the results obtained from this expedition. The stay in England was also an excellent opportunity to visit the EMBL-EBI laboratory in Cambridge where the enormous quantity of DNA-sequence data from the Tara Oceans samples are stored.

©Pauline Planté/ Tara Expéditions

The Canary Returns from the Coal Mine – ITW Romain Troublé

Three years after her last visit to London, the French research schooner Tara was back in town as part of a mission to give the Ocean a voice. Following her most recent expedition in Greenland, Tara visited Stockholm and is now in London to share the team’s findings with school children, politicians, and the general public. The stopovers are part of an outreach program in view of the  Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP21) to be held in Paris in December. 

Having worked on issues concerning the oceans for the last few years, I was keen to learn more about Tara, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit the boat when it was docked on my doorstep. Tara Expeditions’ secretary general Romain Troublé told me about the organisation’s unique approach and what they hope to achieve in Paris.

Viewing Tara from the footbridge at South Quay in the heart of London’s financial district, it’s immediately clear this is a special boat. The aluminum-hulled schooner is built for extreme conditions. In the last 10 years, this ‘canary in the coal mine’ of the world’s oceans has traversed the globe, covering 300,000 kilometres, producing groundbreaking science and reporting back on the health of our planet’s most vital and under-appreciated resource. For Romain Troublé, the ocean has the power to bind humanity together and provide a common goal as we wrestle with how best to create a healthy and sustainable planet for future generations, because “we are all linked by this body of water across the globe.”

For him, the health of human beings is intrinsically linked to the health of the oceans, and rather than something to be ashamed of, our self-interest could in fact help to save them: “The Ocean gives us a lot of services, on a daily basis. So, we’re not just fighting for the Ocean, we’re fighting for ourselves. Caring about the Ocean is not just caring about fishes, or sea urchins, or corals – it’s about caring for ourselves.”

Romain Troublé is an affable but focused man, a longtime sailor and biologist who appears to love all of the sea’s myriad faces. On the surface, his goal is simple: “to give the Ocean a voice.” His mission is born of a lifetime watching his beloved Ocean remain largely absent at high-level climate meetings. “If you look at the planet you would believe that the size of the Ocean would put this player in every talk at the UN level; but that isn’t the case today. For 21 years, since we’ve been talking about the climate and CO2 emissions, this is not the case.”

Indeed, most people would be surprised to learn that an area covering 75% of the planet’s surface could be ignored for so long. Romain Troublé is only half joking when he answers his own question, “Why?” “Because, there aren’t any voters in the Ocean.” But he goes on to discuss the familiar collective delusion that has characterised so much environmental abuse over the centuries: “People believed that it was so big, so huge, so deep, that it could cope with anything we put inside, and any development we make on the land will have no effect on the ocean. But what we’ve seen over the last 10 years is that we have a really big impact on the Ocean.”

But it is here that Romain Troublé’s vision of the Ocean as unifier and Tara’s unique approach offer some hope. Tara will continue to travel the world’s oceans, gathering vital scientific data, inspiring beautiful artwork and building a compelling narrative around the importance of this resource; but it is on her return from sea that the true value of her work is apparent. When I visited, the boat was bustling with groups of school children, as enraptured by the photos of plankton as by the boat itself. And it is through this vital outreach – to school children, politicians and the public – that the real impact of Tara’s scientific research is realised. Romain Troublé says “we need storytelling and also we need to touch people who don’t care about the planet. We need to speak to kids, because they’re the ones who will deal with our planet in the future. They’re going to be in charge in 20 or 30 years from now. We need to inspire them with a long-term vision of the Ocean, and our planet.”

This is the vision that Romain Troublé and Tara will take to the COP21 in Paris as they push to get for the Ocean the recognition it so clearly deserves at the world’s most important meeting on climate change.

Interview by Josh Stride

Related articles:
- Join the Ocean Call for Climate on Change.org
Tara in London – pictures
Heading to the Paris Climate Conference (COP21)

TARA IN LONDON: EN ROUTE TO THE COP 21

Just arrived from Sweden, Tara and her crew moored in the Marina of West India Docks, within a stone’s throw of the famous Tower Bridge in London.

From 9 to 14 September, docked in the middle of one of the largest European megacities, Tara aims at raising awareness among the greatest number of people about the importance of preserving the ocean. This outreach program is in preparation for the upcoming United Nations Conference on Climate Change, also called COP 21. But what does “COP 21” mean and what are the challenges of this conference?

©P.PLanté

©P.PLanté

The next COP, in other words “Conference of the Parties”, will take place in Paris from November 30 to December 11, 2015. It will bring together the 195 signatory nations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, as well as NGOs, associations, companies and groups of scientists. This conference will be the 21st since its inception in 1995.

Its objective: reaching an agreement to limit global warming to 2 degrees, reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, mitigate the impact of anthropogenic activities, enable populations to adapt to climate change, best encourage and support northern as well as southern countries during the energy transition. The most recent IPCC report (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), published in November, is alarming. It predicts an increase in temperature between 0.3 and 4.8° C by the year 2100. The Paris summit meeting is a real opportunity to set targets to limit anthropogenic impact on the environment and the Ocean. Before giving the Ocean a loud and clear voice in Paris and to remind everyone, especially decision-makers, about the ocean’s key role in the climate system, Tara’s stopover in London is a major event on her way to the COP21.

Sylvie Bermann, Ambassadeur de France à Londres

Sylvie Bermann, Ambassadeur de France à Londres. ©P.Planté

Sylvie Bermann, Ambassador of France in London, officially welcomed the schooner on the docks of her adopted city. “This meeting in London is important. It’s one of Tara’s last stopovers before the COP21 but, most of all, it’s the symbol of a very rich scientific cooperation between the United Kingdom and France. A financial collaboration as well, not only  from the governments, but also from businesses and many institutions.”

If this London stopover is a link between the countries that will gather at the COP 21, the French Embassy is also mobilizing the general public around the key event of this year. “We’ve organized a series of conferences called “Road to Paris”. The conferences will address various aspects of climate change to raise awareness among the general public, students and also in the business world.” said Sylvie Bermann. She then explained that England pays particular attention to the conservation of its surrounding marine ecosystem. “The United Kingdom is not only concerned but has high-level laboratories conducting scientific research. Like France, England crosses the seas with the purpose of protecting the oceans. I am convinced that cooperation between the different nations is crucial in research.”

Asked about what concerns her the most in the relationship between the ocean and climate, she responds: “What strikes me is the importance of plankton and the potential negative impact of global warming. The marine ecosystem is very important for life on Earth as demonstrated by the scientific results of Tara’s expeditions. The ocean really deserves to be taken into account”.

Interview by Pauline Plante.

 

Interview with Lisa Emelia Svensson – Ocean and climate, how to inform decision makers?

During a stopover in Stockholm, the Tara project members – in particular, Romain Troublé, secretary general of Tara Expeditions  had the opportunity to speak with local political representatives. A foretaste of what awaits them at the 2015 Climate Conference to be held in Paris this winter. Among them, Lisa Emelia Svensson, Swedish Ambassador of the oceans. Interview with a committed woman.

Can you explain your role as an ambassador?

I work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as an ambassador for the oceans, I defend the Swedish perspectives on the protection of the oceans. I’m focusing on the challenges facing the ocean, but also on how to raise this debate to more a political level. We have the knowledge, publications, and information, but we still need to raise public awareness about these challenges! How do we make a link so policy makers can actually use the information and do something about it? In the context of the United Nations climate conference and the post-2015 agenda, we have one clear goal – the ocean. So now the important thing is: how do we implement this goal?

In order to complete this challenge at the end of the year, what relationship must there be between private initiatives such as Tara Expeditions and public or political initiatives? What is the role of these initiatives?

Tara Expeditions has two dimensions. You are a scientific boat and also a private foundation. From our perspective, science should be the foundation of all decisions because it informs us on what’s happening, and on this basis we have to make policy decisions. These strategic initiatives cannot be made or should not be made without knowing how to act. Of course, it’s always a challenge: when do we have enough scientific knowledge?

What does science tell us? Sometimes it shows how little we know about a subject – for example, the ocean. But we have to take this precautionary principle before making any decisions. And of course when it comes to politics, there are also many other variables to take into account, such as economics, as well as social and political decisions. So when working with science, policy interface is crucial. Tara Expeditions is a science-based organization, but also serves educational and informational purposes, as for example today’s seminar.

What are your expectations for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21)? What are our chances of reaching a serious agreement?

Obviously we all hope to reach an agreement, and I think it’s important we all agree upon the legal instruments to implement. It is essential to raise public awareness about the ocean’s status – both as a regulator of climate but also regarding the impact of climate change on this ecosystem.

Why aren’t the oceans taken into account on the climate issue?

I think our awareness about the health of the oceans is 30 to 40 years behind our consciousness of climate change. Tara has been working on plastics for 5 years, meaning scientists have been studying plastic waste in the ocean for 5 years. But that is currently the extent of our knowledge on the subject, whereas for climate change, we have access to long-term measurements. So we know more about climate change and have thus been able to disseminate information on this subject for a longer time. We have detailed reports and algorithms on climate, and its evolution is foreseeable. In contrast, for the first time this year, we attended a seminar presenting an assessment report of the world ocean. We are currently working on this collective report in preparation for the upcoming United Nations conference. The final report will come in December.

Interview by Noëlie Pansiot

Related articles:

- The Ocean, the climate and the science

- Interview with Romain Troublé: “Let’s give the Ocean a voice at the COP21″

- ITW with Etienne Bourgois: Tara, from the Arctic to the 2015 Climate Conference in Paris

ITW with Mathieu Voluer: Bridging science and sailing

Among the sailors aboard Tara, the youngest is a tall blond with angular features. 34-year-old Mathieu Voluer is a deck officer. He joined the crew in June to participate in the 2015 Tara Ecopolaris mission. With Tara Expeditions Mathieu can finally combine his passions: sailing, science and education. Portrait of a new team member.

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© N.Pansiot/Tara Expeditions

Mathieu chose the sea. The ocean is an integral part of both his professional and personal life. Since childhood he has fostered this passion: “I grew up near the water in Antibes in a family who loved sailing and free diving. I was almost born on a boat, built by my parents.”

At 19, he left France for a program in oceanography at the University of Hawaii. After completing a year of study in biogeochemistry, he stayed there to work with one of his professors conducting research on ocean acidification. Mathieu eventually decided to return home to do a Masters in environmental management: “I realized that I absolutely needed to be in contact with the sea. I chose to pursue this degree in Corte, Corsica. I then worked in the Bonifacio Strait Nature Reserve studying the interactions between fishing activities and dolphins.”

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© N.Pansiot/Tara Expeditions

At the end of his studies, Mathieu set aside science to become a professional sailor, but his interest in research did not diminish. After getting a captain’s license in England, he conveyed large sailing boats around the world and particularly enjoyed traversing the Pacific. Even when he’s not sailing for work, Mathieu never stays far away from the liquid element. He travels to meet other seafaring people, for example in Madagascar where he lived for 6 months in contact with the local fishermen. And he returns regularly to Polynesia, where he discovered a culture based on getting food from the sea.  The ocean is no longer a subject of study nor a playground for him. Polynesian friends initiated Mathieu to their culture and he learned empirically by their side. The word “transmission” often comes up in conversation. The young man seems driven by a desire to share his experiences with the very young, with his future children.

Aboard Tara, Mathieu doesn’t hesitate to give a hand in the kitchen. If he cooks, it’s because he enjoys good food. A true epicurean, he doesn’t believe in “depriving himself” and wants to “make the most of life”. Mathieu has been following Tara’s adventures for several years, but for professional reasons he didn’t encounter the schooner until recently. This summer, when he crossed paths with Tara, he didn’t hesitate: “For more than 3 years I’ve been trying to connect science and sailing. Navigating aboard Tara is a logical continuation.”

Interview by Noëlie Pansiot

TARA AND HER LONG-TERM PARTNERS: ITW WITH ROMAIN TROUBLÉ

After a month in Greenland on the Tara Ecopolaris mission 2015, the schooner is  back in Stockholm, on the way to the Paris Climate conference this winter.

This stopover will allow Tara Expeditions and the Taranauts to share their observations and remind the general public of the vital services rendered by the Ocean. A steady stream of visitors have come aboard: Tara’s partners, political personalities, young people. Romain Troublé, secretary general of Tara Expeditions, highlights the importance of this type of event.

What is the purpose of this stopover in Sweden?

Sweden is one of the most advanced countries regarding sustainable development! We organized this  5-day stopover in Stockholm to get to know our Swedish partner, to present our experiences to school children, and talk about the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP21) to be held in Paris this winter. Passing through major cities – Stockholm, London and Nantes – during “Green Week” is extremely interesting. At each of these stops we welcome aboard policy makers – here for example the Swedish Minister of Development who represents the Green Party, and the former Prime Minister who is involved with forest-related issues. It’s very interesting to discuss the theme of oceans with these people. We’re also here to meet with representatives of BillerudKorsnäs, our new partner, very active in the preservation of the environment as the leading Swedish supplier of renewable materials and packaging.

Who are Tara’s sponsors?

Our faithful supporters are agnès b., our founder, along with Etienne Bourgois, who bring their vision and long-term financial security to the project. Lorient Agglomeration, our home-port, has been sponsoring us for 8 years now, as has the Albert II of Monaco Foundation. We’ve also been working with the Veolia Foundation for 6 years. Tara’s partners are a select group of people engaged in thinking about climate change and sustainable development. Some are pioneers in developing sustainable industrial processes, for example the Serge Ferrari company. These are people who have the means to change things! They are not flawless, but they have the desire to do the right thing and take action.

This year we established a new partnership with Billerudkrosnas, a Swedish company producing sustainable paper for packaging. By making a port-of-call in Stockholm, we can assess the value and meaning of this collaboration over the long term. Our partners are medium-sized French companies. I mentioned Serge Ferrari, but the IDEC Group also shares our philosophy and ideas on the purpose of the Tara Expeditions project.

Without them Tara could not exist! We also have a prestigious non-funding partner: the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, which helps us deal with the political aspects of the work. UNESCO supports us in getting our messages out to the UN. Together we are mobilizing  member countries around the question of the Ocean and its place in sustainable development.

Tara is investing a great deal in the COP21 to be held this winter in Paris

This is true, and hosting a UN Climate Conference in France is an historic event!  We must make sure the Ocean receives greater consideration in thinking about the future of the climate and sustainable development. What has blocked climate negotiations for 20 years is basically the north-south conflict about who should pay the bill for less pollution. Each party defends its interests. If the discussion is not addressed from another angle, we will end up with nothing, or else a weak consensus. We must try to find an ambitious, common goal for all.

Here at Tara Expeditions we believe that the health of the Ocean could be our common objective. The Ocean has the capacity – as a common heritage of humanity – to unite people, as demonstrated in the past with the Rights of the Sea agreement. I believe that if we manage to resolve the problems of the Ocean, we will settle some of the problems of humanity. Because the Ocean plays a major role in the climate system – as a carbon sink, regulator of temperature, and producer of oxygen.

This is what we’re trying to accomplish with the Ocean and Climate Platform, and of course via the Ocean’s Call for Climate. This is why Tara will be in Paris this winter, docked near the Pont Alexandre III during the COP21,  from November 12 to December 18.

Interview by Noëlie Pansiot

Related articles:

- Discover all Tara’s partners

- Learn more about BillerudKorsnäs

 

 

Sirius: Patrolling the far north

Tobias Kolhorn is a Sirius patrolman. For 2 years he has been criss-crossing the Greenland National Park for the Danish navy.

For 24 months he has not returned home nor seen his relatives. No telephone network, not even an Internet connection, Sirius patrolmen have no communication with the outside world. During this time, Tobias left the Arctic Circle only once: to have a mandatory dental check-up in Reykjavik, Iceland. When we were docked near the military base of Ella, the Taranautes were able to get acquainted with this young sergeant.

Base militaire danoise d'Ella, côte est du Groenland.

Danish military base Ella, east coast of Greenland 

Tobias is part of an elite unit of the Danish navy – the Sirius Patrol. A group of carefully selected young men who must meet very high physical and psychological requirement. There were between 50 and 100 candidates, but only 7 were selected to integrate an intense training program in Greenland. Like a  “Survivor” program without cameras. For 7 months, Tobias and his colleagues were introduced to survival skills in the Arctic and the handling of dogsleds. They now know how to deal with a pack, and can take care of the animals in case of injury. And of course they have mastered the use of guns  to confront a bear or other threat. The mission of Sirius is well defined: they must perform  reconnaissance patrols with sleds  over long distances, and enforce Danish sovereignty over this immense Arctic region.

Tobias Kolhorn was selected to join the elite unit of the Navy: the Sirius Patrol. Cut off from the outside world, he has been traversing Greenland by dogsled for 24 months

Tobias Kolhorn was selected to join the elite unit of the Navy: the Sirius Patrol. Cut off from the outside world, he has been traversing Greenland by dogsled for 24 months

This unit was established in 1941 during World War II to prevent the Germans from landing along the northeast coast of Greenland. At the time the enemy was seeking to establish secret meteorological bases in the area in order to obtain information necessary to support the U-Boats and predict weather changes in Europe. Today the unit is still operating in the region, from the west coast of Hall Land up to Kap Biot, north of Fleming Fjord. A distance of 2,100 kilometers as the crow flies, but actually spanning 16,000 kilometers of rugged coastline.

The young sergeant leads Taranauts on a tour of the Ella military base. From left to right:  Dominique Limbour, Tobias Kolhorn and Sylvie Duboué.

The young sergeant leads Taranauts on a tour of the Ella military base. From left to right: Dominique Limbour, Tobias Kolhorn and Sylvie Duboué.

Tobias is completing a 2-year contract and is about to return to Denmark where he worked as a carpenter before joining the unit. When asked what prompted him to get involved, he replied: “I wanted to live this experience, discover the nature of Greenland, and test my strength in an inhospitable environment.” Here, the young Sirius officer discovered a simple life, punctuated by winter patrols, life with dogs and military discipline. He learned about himself and was able to test his limits: “If you get the right training, you’re ready physically and mentally, you can face anything. Now I know how to discipline myself, manage my stress, and make the right decisions at the right time.”

The region the Sirius patrol crossed by dog sled.

The region the Sirius patrol crossed by dog sled.

In summer, the Sirius patrol sails through the fjords to refuel the bases and huts they will use during the winter. When the sun no longer rises during the long months of ice, Sirius criss-crosses the north of the territory: “We patrol from November 1st to  December 20th , then we spend the Christmas holidays at the Daneborg base. We leave between January 20th  and February 20th.  Two of us work together with  13 dogs, we camp in tents, sometimes in huts. The temperature can drop to -35 ° C.”

When on  a surveillance mission, the days begin at 8 am by a call to the Daneborg station. Then they must harness the dogs and go off for 6 hours. The ritual is always the same: drive the sleds in the cold, pitch the tent, feed the dogs, making sure that each one has its ration and so on.

The Sirius patrol  traverses northern Greenland, a small part of a territory the size of Europe.

The Sirius patrol traverses northern Greenland, a small part of a territory the size of Europe.

When he arrived in Greenland, Tobias was struck by the immensity of the landscape: “At first it was difficult to determine the distances: 5km or 25km, impossible to say. There’s nothing to see on  the horizon.”  He became familiar with the territory, and in summer he travels over it  running rather than walking.  What does he miss the most in Denmark? Tall trees, the smell of spring, his friends and playing soccer. The little things of everyday life that he doesn’t have here.

: During the winter, the sergeant is responsible for a pack of 13 Greenland dogs.

During the winter, the sergeant is responsible for a pack of 13 Greenland dogs.

What will he miss when he returns home? The simple life, with nothing superfluous, and of course the dogs, to whom he has become attached. Tobias doesn’t know yet what he’ll do back home. Probably travel for a while, then settle down, and why not join the police. He wants to work with people and thinks he can make a difference by becoming a policeman.

Noëlie Pansiot

In the wake of the Vikings

While Tara is currently sailing in the northern latitudes, let’s take a look at the history of the Vikings with Thomas Birkett, Professor at the University of Cork, Ireland.

Oxford graduate, this Welsh researcher specializes in medieval culture and the runic alphabet –  the first writing system used in northern Europe. In use between the 1st and 15th centuries in certain regions of Sweden, runes appeared on a wide variety of objects found from Turkey to Greenland: dolmens, coins, small pieces of wood or bone.

It seems that the name “Greenland” originated with the Vikings

Yes, several medieval Icelandic sources attribute this name to the Scandinavian explorer Erik the Red, who established a settlement in the newly discovered land after being exiled from Iceland for murder. The Sagas - a literary form that developed in medieval Iceland during the 12th and  13th centuries, consisting of legends, historical and fictional accounts in prose - tell us that Greenland was discovered accidentally some years earlier when a ship travelling to Iceland was blown off course by a storm. Erik named the country “Greenland” to encourage others to settle there. He believed that a promising name would attract many people.

Erik established his colony in the 980s, before Iceland adopted Christianity. In the following decades, 2 main settlement areas developed, known as the “east” and “west” settlements, but both situated on the west coast of Greenland.The Norse settlers adopted farming practices they had used in Norway and Iceland, rearing cattle and sheep. They supplemented their diet by fishing and hunting. There is some disagreement about the total size of the Norse settlements, but the population was certainly over 2,000 people, and may have been considerably larger. Several churches were built, and a bishopric was established at Garðar in the eastern settlement. The site of the cathedral was one of the first to be excavated in Greenland. The foundations can be seen close to the present town of Igaliku.

Did these settlers have links with other populations in the north?

The  settlers maintained close contacts with the rest of the Norse colonies. They remained dependent on Norway for their supply of merchandise: iron, timber, and most important, beer! In return, they traded in valuable walrus ivory and probably furs. As in Norway, the Greenlanders used runes, and the inscriptions tell us quite a bit about their way of life. Despite being isolated geographically, they reacted to developments elsewhere in the Norse world. The Sagas and archaeological excavations of more than 600 Norse farms shed light on the population. We know for example that the biggest farms had large halls that could serve as welcome centers: feasts were held, stories told, guests entertained, and business carried out.

One of the most famous of the Greenland Vikings was Leif Eriksson, son of Erik the Red, who led an expedition to Newfoundland and was the first European to explore North America (around the year 1000). His adventures in the ‘land of vines’, including encounters with the Native Americans, are recorded in the Saga of the Greenlanders and the Saga of Erik the Red. In Greenland itself there seems to have been minimal contact with the Inuit peoples, who lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, though some trade probably occurred. In fact, the unwillingness of the Norse to learn from and adopt the practices of the Inuits may have contributed to the demise of their settlements.

thomas birkett credit Anders Jensen

Do we know the reasons for their departure?

It’s one of the big questions in Old Norse-Viking studies, and there’s no consensus on the subject! We know the western settlement was abandoned by 1350, and the eastern one disappeared sometime later, in the 15th century.

Some researchers see this as a direct result of climate change. Temperatures certainly  started to become cooler around the year 1300, leading to the ‘Little Ice-Age’ in Europe. Greenland was always a very difficult land for farming, so the climate change would have increased pressures on the colony. The western settlement farthest to the north was the first to be abandoned, which confirms the theory of climate-induced resettlement. But the cooling climate alone doesn’t account for the abandonment. The effects of human activities on the land may have been an important component, including soil erosion caused by overgrazing, and the destruction of what little vegetation existed. These human impacts on a very fragile landscape would have made the traditional agricultural practices increasingly difficult to sustain. There is also some evidence of a decline in the diet of the Norse settlers. Knife marks on a dog bone have been interpreted as a desperate action during a particularly bad winter.

Other scholars believe that the settlement wasn’t as precarious as previously thought and that it was abandoned for other reasons. The Vikings’ departure may have been precipitated by attacks from the Inuit or European pirates, but there is little evidence to support this theory. An outbreak of the plague or a decrease in trade with Norway may also explain the decline. Another reason may be that the settlers continued to look back to the Norse homelands rather than to their nearest neighbours. The Vikings always refused to adopt Inuit practices – such as harpoon hunting. They stubbornly clung to European customs and traditions of animal husbandry. The decline of their settlement was perhaps not due to their incapacity to deal with an extreme environment – after all, the settlement developed successful strategies that enabled it to endure for around 500 years – but rather was caused by an inability to change their traditional behaviour in response to climate change, as well as their failure to learn from a people who had adapted over a much longer period of time and who were more resilient to change.

In the end, tradition seems to have been more important to the colonists than innovation and adaptation, and this made the collapse of the society inevitable – perhaps another important lesson for us.

Interview by Noëlie Pansiot

Mission-over – Heading for Stockholm

After 3 days of sailing between the Sofia Sund Fjord in Greenland and the East Coast of Iceland, Tara docked at Vopnafiordür for a few hours.

“It took us 18 hours of intense sailing to leave the ice field, long hours of slaloming,” explains the captain, Martin Hertau. A safe crossing through the ice has allowed the schooner to continue her course southwards, on to the next destination: Sweden. “When we looked at the maps today we could see that the channel has already closed up again. We sailed close to the wind for 3 days – quite a rough crossing for certain people.”

Let’s not mince words, it was stormy. For 3 days the Taranauts abandoned the messroom, holed up in their cabins, struggling with that insidious suffering: seasickness. Trapped in space and time, bodies curled up, minds wandering through a tunnel of endless sleep. There was only one thing to do: wait for the agony to dissipate. And rejoice upon arrival at the dock in Iceland.

N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

For the members of the Arctic Ecology Research Group (GREA) this stopover marks the end of the Tara Ecopolaris 2015 mission. Brigitte Sabard et Olivier Gilg disembarked, relinquishing their places on board. Despite the exceptionally icy conditions for the season, Brigitte and Olivier’s work has progressed. Samples collected this year, combined with their study of bird colonies enabled them to complete an environmental assessment, 11 years after their first mission with Tara in Greenland. These samples have to be sent to the lab for analysis: pollutant levels will be carefully compared with those of 2004. Logistically, the schooner enabled GREA to store nearly a ton of equipment on-site so that their scientific work can continue for the next 3 years. Olivier and Brigitte will return to roam across these same latitudes, as they have been doing for the last 25 years.

After docking for only 5 hours, the schooner left the small town of Vopnafiordür, leaving behind with no regrets the overpowering smell of the fish processing plant.  The schooner is currently advancing at a good pace towards Stockholm where she is expected to arrive in about a week. Next stop on the way to the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, this first encounter with the people of Stockholm will be an opportunity for the Tara Expeditions team to share their vision on the prospects for sustainable development of the oceans. Continuing her role as sentinel, the schooner will be sharing the latest discoveries and data from Tara Oceans, and will proudly fly the Ocean and Climate Platform flag, inviting each and everyone to support the Ocean’s Call for Climate, in preparation for the upcoming climate talks. Objective: to galvanize the largest number of supporters to ensure that the Ocean’s voice will be heard in Paris this December, and thus remind policy makers that a healthy ocean is tantamount to a protected climate.

Noëlie Pansiot

 

Related articles:

- Tara in Stockholm: shared perspectives on sustainable development of the oceans

- Sign the Ocean Call for Climate

 

Tara-Ecopolaris 2015: Logistics

Member of GREA, logistician of the 2015 Tara-Ecopolaris mission, and scientific assistant, Brigitte Sabard is also involved in the educational component of Tara Expéditions via the organization “Les amis de Tara”. For the first time a mission gives her the opportunity to wear her three hats at once. Brigitte discusses her relationship with Tara, as well as the organization of the mission that has just come to an end.

What is your role within the Tara Expeditions land team?

Ever since the Tara Arctic expedition, my friendship for this adventurous family and for Etienne Bourgeois motivated my involvement in Tara’s educational projects, in cooperation with several institutional and associative partners. This happens to fall within my professional skills (consultant in environmental education, science communication and project management at the University). I’ve been committed to Tara for more than 8 years now,  coordinating educational outreach. I create concepts and look for funding with Xavier Bougeard, who is in charge of implementing actions, developing and animating relations with teachers and researchers.

What criteria is the logistical success of an expedition based on?

Two parameters are essential: stay within budget and optimize the logistics-to-science ratio. This means carrying as many people as possible aboard the aircraft that flies to our study area in Greenland, and conversely, minimizing the weight of the equipment. This ratio must be optimal. Of course we need to know what to take and for how many people, what can be conserved or not. This year, we divided foodstuffs per fortnight and stored them in barrels.

Ecopolaris is supported by sponsors who trust us. The money we don’t spend on food or equipment can be otherwise invested, for example in very costly scientific material. The Paul Emile Victor Polar Institute finances 50% of our expeditions since we’re connected to the University of Burgundy. This year our sponsors have given us a real helping hand with food supply. For instance, Moulins des Moines and Intermarché gave us dry goods for the next 3 years, including the current mission with Tara. There are others: Vitagermine for fruit juices and compotes, les Jardins de Gaia for tea, the delicatessens Salaison Sabatier and Les Roches Blanches for cured meat products, Knorr for dried vegetables, Pomona for fresh produce and Columbia for our personal clothing.

All of Tara’s partners have contributed to making this mission possible. Thank you!

What role has Tara played during this expedition?

Beyond the rich scientific component, 11 years after our first collaborative mission, Tara is still offering us great logistical assistance, in line with her mission of supporting scientific research. Tara’s team knows that every year we have to transport a lot of equipment. All this has a cost, and GREA is a non-profit organization operating on its own funds. Tara has therefore proved to be an economical and environmentally friendly way to ship our material. Let’s consider, for instance, 1 kg of pasta delivered by air to our study area in Hochstetter at 76° North. In the end, it costs about 15 euros per kilogram. In France, we loaded nearly a ton of equipment on board, including fuel for camping stoves and boats, and batteries for solar collectors. Thanks to Tara’s logistical support, we’ve been able to send a 3-year supply of dry goods. Along our route we made 2 deposits of equipment -one for a future expedition aboard a dinghy, and the other for the next annual GREA expedition, the “Karupelv Valley Project”. It’s very important for us, because this will enable us to travel lighter aboard our dinghy next year, save fuel and cover a great distance from the Zackenberg scientific base in the north to Mesters Vig in the south, where we’ll be able to supplement the data we’ve collected with Tara this summer.

We had also planned to pick up Eric Büchel and Vadim Heuacker, two GREA ornithologists who worked this summer at Hochstetter and have finally joined us at Mestersvig to return to Iceland aboard the schooner.

To sum up, the assistance provided by Tara has 3 impacts: ecological, economic and scientific. When we charter an aircraft from Iceland to our study area, we are limited by the maximum weight allowed on the plane, which amounts to one ton. The less equipment we carry, the more scientists can come aboard. In general, a person is counted as 100 kg on board a small plane. Thanks to the drop-off we’ve just made with Tara’s logistical support, we’ll be able to bring more researchers on site to collect more data.

The ice conditions we encountered this summer are unique: patches of multi-year ice coming from the Arctic were very dense, and lasted late in the season. They prevented us from sailing up to Hochstetter. However, we did manage to drop-off a ton of equipment at the Mesters Vig military base, which is already a great accomplishment! Next year, we’ll have to find a way to transport our barrels further north, hopefully with the logistical support of the Danish military base at Mesters Vig.

Interview by Noëlie Pansiot

Internet links:

Tara Expeditions website: Educational outreach,

GREA website (Research Group in Arctic Ecology)

 

Kitchen Confidences

Aboard Tara, the cook plays a key role. It’s an established fact, recognized by all – in short,   common knowledge. Guarantor of troop morale, Dominique Limbour, nicknamed “Do”, looks after what some call “our second brain”: our stomach. For this professional nurse, caring for others is second nature.

N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

“Do” is also a full-fledged sailor who doesn’t hesitate to put on her sailing jacket and lend a hand during maneuvers. Her connection to the sea is obvious. The sea is a vital element for this Pisces who needs to see it, swim in it whenever she can – even in high northern latitudes – or let herself be carried by its movement aboard a ship.

When she isn’t wearing her apron aboard Tara, she works at the infirmary of the Brittany Ferries. “Do is a nurse with a huge heart” says Mathieu Oriot, sailor and diver, accustomed to traveling with her. “She takes care of us with food, medicine and psychology.” Aboard the schooner, she’ll end up fixing up sores and injuries if need be, although the responsibility of care remains with the Captain. On board, she leaves behind the pharmacopoeia in favor of quality produce. Delicacies she carefully selects at the markets, in sufficient quantity for the duration of the expeditions.

Her dishes win unanimous support, whether they come out of a cookbook or her imagination. She knows the culinary preferences of everyone. Daniel Cron, Chief Engineer, knows it: “She’ll think of me when there’s a pot of hot chocolate to finish…” But the cook not only makes sure that our bellies are satisfied, she also manages the provisions so the delights of the palate last over time. Here, in the polar region, fresh produce is scarce.

Sweet and calm, even in her tone of voice, the lady cheerfully lends an ear to the Taranauts and gladly becomes their confidante. During morning exchanges with Martin, Tara’s captain, they often converse near the stove, while preparing tea and coffee in the long and narrow kitchen located just below the mess room. While everyone’s still asleep, these two are already accomplices.

From time to time, a sailor offers his help in the kitchen. Do, who doesn’t like her kitchen being invaded, accepts the helping hand of the improvised assistant. Surrounded by the tinkling of pots and utensil noises, people lower their voices, exchanges become more personal. The protagonists of the discussion naturally isolate themselves by their postures: standing in front of the workbench, turning their back on the other crew members. The time is ideal to discuss family issues, romantic woes, long journeys…

The crew’s queen of hearts develops bonds of a different nature with everyone, at their own pace, as conversations and circumstances allow. Louis Wilmotte, the youngest crew member, never misses an opportunity to tease her. It’s not uncommon that he addresses her starting sentences with “Mum”. Dominique’s reaction is often the same: she replies grumpily but always shows the smile of someone who can’t resist humor. According to Louis who loves to banter with his fellow sailors, “when a matter of importance arises, I turn to Dominique”.

Interview by Noëlie Pansiot

 

Final hours in Greenland

Mesters Vig, Monday, August 6.

8am – The Tara-Ecopolaris mission is coming to an end.  All hands on deck now. No time to hang about, we have to empty the boat’s holds and load half a ton of equipment into the two zodiac dinghies. Food, gas cans, batteries… All the equipment that GREA (Arctic Ecology Research Group) will need for the next three years of ornithological missions will be carefully stored here. The sailors are busy offloading the canisters that have adorned the deck since the schooner departed from Lorient.

©N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

©N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

9:30am – Four crew members, already on land, wait on the dusty runway of this Danish military base for the plane that shuttles between Greenland and Iceland. The small plane will first make a stop at Constable Pynt before dropping off this group of Taranauts in Reykjavík. Among them are Christophe Cousin and Fitzgérald Jégo, the Thalassa film crew who’ve been following the mission for the last 15 days. We’re already missing their sense of humor. The scientist Gabriel Gorsky, nicknamed ‘Gaby’ and Romain Troublé, secretary general, are also leaving the boat. Gaby never finds it easy disembarking from Tara. The director of the Observatory of Villefranche-sur-Mer admits that he feels sad each time he leaves Tara.

©N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

©N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

3pm – On land, Olivier Gilg and Brigitte Sabard receive a helping hand from Kim Hansen, the military commander of the base. He has generously put a 4by4 at their disposal, enabling them to transfer their equipment from the port to a cabin which will serve as a depot. We have to clear everything away now and leave nothing to chance before departing. On board, the messroom has become a shelter as the warming sun’s rays shine through the protective bubble-like windows, and a delicious smell of chocolate emanates from the kitchen. Dominique ‘Do’, our wiz of a cook, is busy making dinner. On the menu tonight: bagel with salmon, cabbage & grapefruit salad, and chocolate birthday cake decorated with raspberries.

©N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

©N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

4pm – In the rear hold, Daniel Cron the chief engineer is busy at work: he has to change a cooling pump before departing tomorrow. The young man is patient and persistent: he’s been working on this part for several hours. The sound of his voice reaches us in the messroom, “Who’s the boss?” Intrigued by the commotion, we peer through the doorway leading to the workshop below, where a grinning Daniel can be heard exclaiming, “That’s what I like about this job – it requires a certain attention to detail!”

©N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

©N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

7pm – Everybody on the team is present; it’s time to relax now. Tomorrow the GREA members will conduct their last sampling day on this 2015 campaign. It’s already time to leave Greenland. A new crossing to Iceland awaits the Taranauts, and the maps are indicating a difficult passage through sheets of ice.

©N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

©N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

Noëlie Pansiot

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“Sky, Birds and Sea”

Author and documentary filmmaker, Christophe Cousin is primarily a storyteller. Camera in hand, he came aboard Tara 2 weeks ago. His next film, co-produced by Tara Expeditions and Via Découvertes, conceived for the TV program Thalassa, will recount the Tara-Ecopolaris mission.

Christophe has long been one of the “New Explorers” on Canal+, showing us the life of nomads around the world. “Traveling led me to photography,” he says, “at a time when I wanted to turn my back on a society that didn’t suit me, that was encouraging me to go around the world by bicycle.  After that  experience I wanted to prolong the encounter.”

©N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

What did you know about Tara before boarding?

What vision of Tara did I have? A boat for scientific expeditions whose vocation is to highlight the future of the oceans and their marine ecosystems. I had no notion of the human dimension, and that’s what I was looking for.  Try to put into perspective the connections there may be between scientists  researching  plankton and the sailors who are on the boat all the time and make it move forward.

You’ve been filming the Taranauts for 2 weeks now. What will be the subject of your next documentary?

Last year while I was finishing a film, the production company with which I work, Via Découvertes, offered me a project – a continuation of the previous film. The producers wanted to make a documentary showing the role of the oceans in the climate system.

I must admit that initially the subject was unfamiliar to me. But after exploring it a bit, I felt this was a clear challenge. I’m part of the generation who were told that the “lung” of the planet is the Amazon, which is not necessarily wrong. But it’s not the only lung. Just 6 months ago I learned that the oceans play a role too, and my new awareness made me want to get involved in this project. I’m not a scientist, and I’m the first to be surprised by the subject, but I want to take up the challenge, popularize these ideas, and ensure that viewers fall in love with the Ocean, and with life. This deserves a story!

Everything began at a meeting between Romain Troublé (secretary general of Tara Expeditions) and the production company. We were reflecting on ways to express the relationship uniting “man, sky and  sea.”

Can you tell us something about “Once upon a time the Arctic”, your previous documentary?

I had this film in mind for several years. I wanted to tour the Arctic region, describe the geopolitical issues, but without interviewing politicians or economists, just speaking to the people living there or  traversing the area. The film incorporates 4 stories that echo one another: 150 Chinese millionaires go to the North Pole on the largest nuclear icebreaker in the world; Inuit men go hunting on the sea ice for their survival; Canadian soldiers deploy their force in the northernmost areas of the country; and finally, Nenets in Russia see their transhumance evolving to the rhythm of gas and oil pipelines. The film questions and challenges without judging. Describing the interdependence of ocean and climate  comes as a logical continuation of our goal – to make films that have an impact and real meaning.

N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

I’m aware that it will be difficult to reach a wide audience because ecology sometimes seems far removed from everyday problems. At the same time, the opportunity was too good not to take. The way I want to make this film different from the others by maintaining the human dimension. Science is one thing, but we must not forget that in the midst of all this are humans – their presence on Earth, and their impact. Humans are part of the whole, yet we tend to set them apart. I just returned from making a film in Malaysia with the Badjaus Laut (sea nomads). There’s a lot of talk about marine protected areas as a potential for recreating a dynamic biodiversity, except that people are left out of all this. The Laut Badjaus living from the sea can no longer go to their traditional fishing areas. And here we’re not talking about intensive fishing, we’re talking about a few families who need food.

What are you looking for through these encounters?

In every journey and encounter, in every population we meet and each issue raised, there’s a portion of everyone’s history. Let’s try to understand why we are here, what we’re doing here, where we’re going.  Finally what interests me in this multitude and in their differences is the universality of emotions.

How do you see your work in view of the upcoming climate conference next December?

The climate conference belongs to the people with power in this world, but I think we should all be concerned everyday by the notion of climate. Let’s worry about what we’re doing to the planet, and not just during a special meeting. If the fact that important people come together and manage to change things, so much the better.  But I think that the solution, if one day there is one, will depend on the masses, on large numbers of people rather than an elite.

This is why I think it’s important to communicate about climate, or at least to talk about climate by telling human stories. Because it’s thanks to these stories that we feel concerned, and we will eventually act.

Interview by Noëlie Pansiot

 

Stay alert

A short call was enough to bring all the Taranauts out on deck. We were preparing for landing when Sylvie Duboué, President of Friends of Tara, gave the signal: “Polar bear in sight!” Everybody rushed outside with binoculars to see the famous animal. A week ago we were hoping to see a bear on a patch of ice. But here they are roaming peacefully in the very area we want to explore on foot. After some questioning glances thrown at the boat, the animal finally took off, or at least disappeared from our field of vision, leaving some doubt about his presence. This bear was unfortunately too far away to be captured by our cameras – a pinhead lost in the middle of the tundra. None of our photos proved conclusive.

IMG_1253

Tara, lost in the landcape. ©N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

After some consideration, the zodiac was finally launched and landed on the pebble beach at Ymers Island. Equipped with a rifle and flares to ensure the crew’s safety, we had to be vigilant and decided not to explore a canyon with glowing colors. The captain’s instructions were clear: stay together, scan the horizon with binoculars, and carefully choose your route to avoid finding yourself nose to nose with a bear hidden in a valley.

IMG_1072

Dominique Limbour (cook) and Mathieu Voluer (deck officer) check the horizon to avoid an encounter with a polar bear. ©N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

As for GREA researchers Olivier Gilg and Brigitte Sabard, they took a much steeper path to reach the foot of a cliff, in search of a nest of gyrfalcons. They have been exploring this territory for nearly 25 years, accompanied by their son Vladimir. Sometimes they bring along a tent and camp out for several days. Brigitte recalls: “When Vladimir was 13 months old, I carried him on my back. At age 4 he was already climbing the cliff alone. Now 12 years old, this is his 13th Arctic mission.” The youngest of the Taranauts shows great maturity and a surprising analytical sense. “These animals are really beautiful to see, majestic, and they inspire respect. We observed 3 young falcons, then the adults came to feed them.”

IMG_4069

Gyrfalcon. ©N.Pansiot/Tara Expéditions

Eleven years after their first expedition with Tara, the GREA researchers continue their observations, returning to strategic locations day after day to take photos, count birds, and collect samples that will constitute an inventory of species. The schooner just headed out to sea again. It will take 17 hours of navigation to reach Myggbukta Bay further north. Brigitte and Olivier point out places on the map: “We’ll be passing many more beautiful landscapes, so stay alert.”

Noëlie Pansiot

Photos credits: Brigitte Sabard and Noëlie Pansiot

The Tara-Ecopolaris mission reconvenes at Scoresby Sund

It’s been 4 days since Tara left Iceland. The thick fog that envelopped the schonner has finally dispersed so we’re sailing at a good speed northwards, towards the largest fjord in the world: scoresby sund.

The Taranautes have all assembled on deck to enjoy the breathtaking landscape. So it’s not particularly easy for this onboard journalist, locked away in the computer room, to be writing this log. Computer on lap, with one eye on the keyboard and the other on the icebergs, the windows of this temporary office on the deck, overlook the stunning mountains of black rock mottled with white. The whole scene is perfectly reflected on the water…

Earlier, at lunch time, Tara made a stop in front of the basaltic cliffs of Cape Brewster, a much coveted object of desire for the two ecologists onboard. Armed with long zoom lenses screwed onto their cameras, the two researchers from GREA, Brigitte Sabard et Olivier Gilg, have been frantically ‘shooting’ one of the east coast’s largest colonies of sea birds. These photos will be assembled later, enabling us to count one by one the thick-billed murres and the black-legged kittiwakes. Olivier, half smiling, jokes about the work that awaits them when they return from this mission: “there’ll be some long winter nights in Burgundy…

Face au mur de glace

Faced with a wall of ice. ©N.Pansiot/TaraExpeditions.org

These researchers don’t seem to be scared easily by the endless days of work, as was demonstrated yesterday criss-crossing the frozen island of Dunholm for 13 hours in search of waterfowl. With a bag full of provisions on one shoulder and a rope perched on the other, they were on a mission to capture a dozen eider ducks – a species of sea duck – in order to take a series of samples and measurements. Huddled over their nests, the female eiders are perfectly camouflaged. Only a trained eye could distinguish these birds whose feathers blend into the rocky surroundings. Once spotted, the bird must be captured with a rope and this task doesn’t prove to be easy.

This is a new part of our scientific program” Olivier explains. “In 2004 we were happy to simply collect eider down to study pollutants. We’ve repeated that operation which will allow us to determine levels of contaminants, including mercury, but we’ve also conducted blood tests on a dozen birds. This is a first, and we quickly realized the difficulty of the task. These new samples will provide us with an additional way to measure the levels of not just mercury, but also hydrocarbons – pollutants which are likely to increase with the development of maritime traffic in the region. These contaminants are anthropogenic: pollution from  regions inhabited by humans is carried by wind and ocean currents. There is little or no source of pollution here. So by sampling locally, we can measure the circulation of pollutants around the planet.

Mathieu Voluer, deck officer, and Dominique Limbour, cook, watching a colony of thick-billed murres at Cape Brewster. ©N.Pansiot/TaraExpeditions.org

It’s 4pm already, and a few Taranautes have gathered in the large messroom, others are taking a break to recharge their batteries for the next night shift. The schooner is far from the coast and sailing at over 7 knots to reach a safe place. The captain studies the maps: “We’re heading north and it’s a bit of a gamble. A gale is expected during the night of July 29 to 30, so we have to get a move on if we want to cover 200 miles in 35 hours.

Noëlie Pansiot

 

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THE GATES TO GREENLAND SEEM TO HAVE OPENED

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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THE FJORDS: A BIRD’S EYE VIEW

On the way to the east coast of Greenland, Tara’s crew must exercise patience and prudence. Brigitte Sabard and Olivier Gilg, two Greenland specialists, are waiting to complete their observations on this little known coast of the great white continent.

Sea ice has significantly reduced access to the Scoresbysund fjord for more than fifteen days, thus delaying the Tara-Ecopolaris mission, conducted in collaboration with the Research Group in Arctic Ecology (GREA). Looking at a map of Greenland, ornithologist Oliver Gilg explains how he plans to conduct his research.

“Since Tara’s expedition eleven years ago, no one has gone back to this place, located far from civilization, to see how its overall situation has evolved. This is the purpose of our mission. We will try to reach the south coast and sail along it to Cape Brewster, located at the southern entrance of the fjord. In theory, there should be less ice there, since it is somewhat protected from the northeast winds and since sea ice tends to drift straight down.”

“This is where the largest colonies of common eider live with more than 500 nests on some islands. Originally, we had intended to capture birds to take blood samples. However, we’re still planning to recover bird down from their empty nests for the first scientific phase of the Tara-Ecopolaris program, where work will focus on pollutants, mercury in particular. We intend to collect bird down from a dozen nests per colony, in five or six different colonies. We had already done this in 2004, so the comparison will be interesting.

“There is a large colony on Cape Brewster which includes black-legged kittiwakes and thick-billed murres. Scoresbysund fjord is usually free of ice early in the season and the counting of this colony has been performed for almost a century. This will allow us to monitor trends. Thick-billed murres are decreasing in number, both on the east and west coasts. This is most likely due to hunting as Inuits consider this bird to be a delicacy. Conversely, the number of black-legged kittiwakes has significantly increased in Greenland. The more the sea ice melts, the greater the population grows. We also observed in 2004 some Atlantic puffins, a very rare species in this region. We are not certain that they nest on the east coast of Greenland. It would be interesting to find some nests or burrows.”

“Then, we would like to sail up the Scoresbysund fjord, where we had identified the presence of great and lesser black-backed gulls, two species that eleven years ago had just arrived in Greenland. The goal is to be able to confirm that the population has indeed established itself, and know if it has increased. Everything will depend on weather conditions since it takes a full sailing day to reach the far end of the fjord” (Editor’s note: Scoresbysund is one of the longest fjords in the world, with a length of nearly 300 km).

“Finally, we hope to sail further north along the coast in order to count the two other colonies of black-legged kittiwakes and thick-billed murres. In other fjords, there are a lot of different species. There are several hundred arctic tern nests on the small islets, as well as dozens of glaucous gulls, the two most common species in the fjords. As there are no disturbances, no hunting or fishing, these population trends will be interesting to study. They will be compared with GREA data collected for more than 30 years. However, many scientific question marks remain. Going on a mission with Tara allows us to closely approach the shore, make our way through the ice and get ashore aboard a dinghy. This would be impossible otherwise. It will all depend on the ice cover.”

Interview by Dino Di Meo aboard Tara

 

Tara, icebound in Iceland

After three long days of waiting in Akureyri (Iceland), sea ice that drifted from the North Pole along the Greenland coasts is still blocking the entrance to the Scoresbysund fjord where Tara had planned to deliver supplies to the Ecopolaris expedition, dedicated to the study of fauna and directed by the GREA (Research Group in Arctic Ecology).

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According to satellite observations and ice charts provided by the Norwegians, weather conditions haven’t improved, thus preventing Tara from entering the fjord and reaching Constable Pynt where the GREA researchers are currently stationed. Winds have abated in this area of the Arctic Ocean, but a return of northeast winds has been forecast for next weekend. This should push the ice even more toward the entrance of the fjord and therefore restrict its access for some more time.

Captain Martin Hertau seemed quite pessimistic after consulting weather maps, especially since the navigator Isabelle Autissier, with whom Tara is in contact, has been trying to find a way through the ice to reach the small village of Ittoqqortoormiut located at the mouth of the fjord. She was having a hard time progressing 60 km off the coast when Tara had to turn back last Saturday.

Isolated in a base camp near Constable Pynt, Brigitte Sabard and Olivier Gilg (GREA) finally returned to Akureyri yesterday afternoon to patiently wait for weather conditions to improve. With their logistics equipment aboard Tara, it was impossible for them to begin their mission in good conditions. The winter has been very cold this year and even the west coast of Greenland was blocked by ice longer than usual, despite the influence of the Gulf Stream. Aboard Tara, we are waiting for a favorable period of weather before sailing back to the mouth of the fjord. A decision will be made on Thursday morning, after consulting weather maps, ice charts and discussin the actual on-site situation with Isabelle Autissier.

Dino Di Meo

Greenland ice forces Tara to be patient

At this season in the Arctic’s high latitudes, the great white continent has not yet freed its coasts of ice. Patience and prudence are the golden rule in navigation. Tara’s voyage to Greenland will take a little more time than anticipated.

The schooner, engaged in the Tara Ecopolaris mission with members of the Arctic Ecology Research Group (GREA), will facilitate the study of birds living in this very isolated polar region.

D.Dimeo/Tara Expéditions

D.Dimeo/Tara Expéditions

Just as they did 11 years ago, Etienne Bourgois and Jean Collet (first captain of Jean Louis Etienne’s boat in 1989) arranged to meet aboard Tara in Iceland. In 2004, the gray schooner had just become the property of Etienne Bourgois and agnès b. This was the beginning of a series of expeditions on the east coast of Greenland in the company of Olivier Gilg and Brigitte Sabard, French experts on Arctic ecosystems.

This time around the 2 ornithologists left their belongings on the boat, docked at Akureyri, and flew last Wednesday to Constable Pynt, one of the only places on the remote east coast that has a small airstrip. The next day, Tara left the port of Iceland’s second biggest city and made her way north to retrieve the two GREA scientists. But the Scoresbysund Fjord, which according to satellite maps provided by NASA still seemed accessible, was completely blocked. Strong north winds have pushed the ice towards land, closing the passage.

After a very rough crossing, Tara had to slalom among the first pieces of ice that showed up 80 miles offshore. The boat then traversed a second ice barrier, but the third one proved to be more resistant. The battle with the giant blocks turned to the advantage of the elements. Winds 35 to 40 knots northeast were predicted.

For obvious security reasons, the decision was made to head back to Iceland. Friday, July 10 at 7 pm, after hours of zigzagging in the freezing cold among numerous blocks of ice, Tara managed to get to safety, a little further out to sea.

With binoculars in hand and a lookout perched at the top of the mast, the crew turned the boat back south. “We were hoping for a change, but the weather reports don’t foresee one before 3 or 4 days,” said Captain Martin Hertau. Nothing dramatic in the polar situation this year. The dominance of north winds for weeks has pushed the ice to the south, and even the west coast of the continent is still in the grip of ice.

Sunday July 12 around 10 pm, after a downwind crossing, Tara arrived in Akureyri. Moored in a small fishing port, Tara must await the green light of the ice maps before doing the crossing again in the other direction.

Dino Di Meo, correspondent aboard Tara

TARA in Iceland, in the wake of the whales

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This Monday, July 6, 2015, TARA entered Icelandic territorial waters through the long fjord connecting the North Atlantic to Akureyri, the second largest city of the country. A stopover of a  few days to allow a crew rotation, as well as the discovery of local culture in spectacular scenery. Among the many attractions of this territory made of ice and fire, the observation of marine wildlife is one of the most popular activities and represents a large part of the Icelandic tourist economy. Thanks to cold and therefore more oxygenated waters, the Icelandic coasts are rich in krill, herring and plankton, therefore providing an amazing food supply for many marine mammals. Indeed, between May and September, more than twelve species of whales and sperm whales gather in these food-rich areas, thus enabling tourists and scientists to study more closely these giants of the sea. From TARA’s deck, the crew has actually been able to observe within a few cables’ length from the port of Akureyri the ballet of a humpback whale breaching.

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Measuring nearly fifteen meters long and weighing twenty-five tons, humpback whales are among the most common species in Iceland, as well as the more readily observed. Arriving from the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea, where they spent the winter, these whales do not hesitate to travel far upstream into the fjords in search of food. Humpbacks can feed on more than two tons of krill a day to build up their fat reserves for the next winter. For a long time, their curious behaviour regarding ships made them an easy target for whalers. It now represents a major asset for scientific studies. Their tail flukes are easily observable when they dive and show specific patterns that allow researchers to quantify them and follow their migration across the oceans. Like a fingerprint, these patterns are specific to each whale and thus constitute a valuable source of information.

North of Akureyri, the city of Husavik is home to the main whale observation centres and therefore attracts thousands of tourists in its fjords every year. Visitors are invited to send their photos to local researchers in order to build up a data base allowing the annual monitoring of individuals on this area. Visual surveys are often supplemented with an analytical method, well known of taranauts: a portable hydrophone that enables underwater listening and recording of whales’ vocalisation that can last up to several days in a row. Professor Herve Glotin at the University of Toulon, who has recently provided TARA with an on-board underwater recording device, conducted research on these vocalisations during the project called Baobab. These recording sessions performed along the coasts of Madagascar led to a first analysis of populations in the southern Indian Ocean. They now could be supplemented during TARA’s campaign in Greenland.

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However, the relationship between Iceland and whales is far from unanimous on the international scene. Indeed, despite many collected signatures, Iceland launched a few days ago a whaling campaign. A traditional commercial fishery prohibited in 1986 by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) that has yet been resumed in Iceland since 2006. Alongside Norway and Japan, Iceland is one of the last countries to refuse the IWC moratorium on whaling for commercial purposes. A quota of 154 fin whales and 229 Minke whales was thus set for the 2015 campaign for a meat mainly intended for tourist consumption, as well as for export to Japan despite a sharp decline in demand.

A paradoxical situation for this whale sanctuary that has made Iceland the target of criticism from the international authorities, until public opinion places contemplation ahead of traditionalism.

 

Pierre de Parscau

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From one island to another: Tara is heading for the Faroe Islands

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On the way to Greenland, after several days at sea, Tara reaches the high latitudes of the globe with the   ocean’s rhythm pounding on the hull at night and pitching passengers in the corridor. The ocean is sometimes illuminated by a thunderstorm, water everywhere. Entrenched behind aluminum walls, the Taranautes look like islanders. Navigating in the open sea has gradually transformed life aboard. From collective days with synchronized rhythm, the crew has slowly adapted to this boat with variable geometry. In the limited space between stern and bow, life on board is organized with its habits, codes and timetables. Our clock is dictated by night shifts shared by sailors and passengers, with a change of guard every 3 to 4 hours. Night-watch is like a parenthesis during which TARA seems to resound differently beneath the moon or rain. Staying on course, checking machines, traffic surveillance and night maneuvers, all imperatives that enable the crew to sleep soundly. Night owls meeting in the corridor and kitchen, recommendations exchanged between one watchman and the next, the pleasure of returning to your cabin for the hours remaining until the next watch, always different from the preceding one.

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Out at sea but sedentary, the body sometimes calls out for exercise. On deck or in the hold, for a few moments we find ways to escape the limits imposed by the ship. Soon a road bike is turned into a stationary bike pushed up against the ladder of the forward hold. Yoga alternates with sports exercises on deck, sometimes limited by the sudden coolness of the air. Setting yourself some reference points is probably one of the keys to life on board. Beyond the specific work at each position, collective tasks, and meal times, the crew conjugates singularity of this voyage and daily routine.

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Five days after leaving France, yesterday we had a chance to see a coastline previously hidden beyond the horizon. Floating on a calm sea, the Orkney Islands were soon in sight, and with them, slices of light green, seen for the last time along the Seine. The entire crew comes out on TARA’s bow at the sight of these unlikely meadows: with binoculars we glimpse the ruins of a stone house or the roof of a sheepfold. Everywhere the vegetation seems to have capitulated long ago to rainy winters and the onslaught of wind. A world at the end of the world, yet bearing evidence of an energy transition in the works: on the starboard side, the Island of Eday has no trees, only the mast of a wind turbine. Further along the same coast, an amazing platform attracts our attention. What could at first glance be taken for a drilling site, is actually the support for a hydrokinetic turbine being installed. Steep cliffs, mountains covered with clouds and shadows playing on the grassy plateaux, the passage of the Orkney Islands is like a lovely reward after more turbulent times.

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Pierre de Parscau

Listening to the Ocean

François Aurat (second capitaine) et Louis Wimotte (électricien) testent l’hydrophone avant sa mise à l’eau

François Aurat (first mate) and Louis Wilmotte (electrician) test hydrophone before launching

After sailing along the English coast for several miles, TARA took advantage of a 20-knot wind from the south to cut her engines and let the hull roll on soon-to-become Scottish waves. A climate conducive for encounters, as was the case yesterday with a pod of 5 Risso’s dolphins that came to greet the bow in turquoise waters. Tara has often observed these animals, but during the upcoming nordic campaign, we will listen to them for the first time. To do this, in Rouen the crew took aboard a special device: a hydrophone. A waterproof microphone, 50 meters of cable and a recorder: a rudimentary kit already tested by a duo well known to Taranautes: Louis Wilmotte, electrician aboard, and Douglas Couet, oceanography student. Having accomplished the MareNostrum adventure together, they were reunited aboard Tara during our route along the Brittany coast.

Arrivée de l'équipage MareNostrum à Istanbul après 14 mois de mer

Arrival of the MareNostrum crew in Istanbul after 14 months at sea

“It was a real challenge to voyage between Gibraltar and Istanbul by kayak” Doug told me as we passed the Cotentin Peninsula. “We were totally autonomous for 14 months, traveling these 8,500 kilometers of coastline, and participating in research on the marine environment.” MareNostrum carried aboard their kayak a type of hydrophone developed by Professor Hervé Glotin at the University of Toulon. “As soon as we could, we immersed the hydrophone to a depth of 30 meters and recorded sounds for a few minutes. Not many studies have researched this, neither cetaceans nor anthropogenic noise, that is, noise produced by man under water”. Thanks to this technique of sound observation, scientists are able to identify all so-called “vocalizing” species — over 60 cetaceans and certain molluscs and shellfish. Unlike surface observations, the hydrophone has a more extensive surface and depth range — up to several kilometers –  in registering certain frequencies. Occasional sounds are very recognizable, like the click of  the sperm whale which Doug let me discover with headphones. “This large animal, over 20 meters long, which hunts squid at great depths, will emit only this very small sound to communicate and locate itself underwater.” On the sound wave displayed by this signal, the 3 closely-spaced peaks definitely betray the presence of one of these sperm whales in the area being analyzed.

Dauphins de Risso rencontrés par TARA au large de l’Angleterre

Spinner dolphins encountered by TARA off England’s coast

These recordings have resulted in an unprecedented survey of underwater sounds throughout the northern Mediterranean. Thanks to the sound signature of each species, scientists were able to identify different populations present along the route of the 2 kayakers, and also quantify noise pollution in the marine environment. “Noise pollution, depending on level and frequency, disrupts inter-individual communications and thus reproduction,” explains Professor Glotin. “The sounds produced by man also disrupt their hunting and therefore feeding.” The example of dolphins found stranded in the Adriatic with pierced eardrums also highlights physiological effects possibly related to overly loud noises. The impact of man-made noise on the marine population is still under study, but certain elected officials have begun questioning the state of their coasts. The municipality of Villefranche-sur-Mer has commissioned Professor Glotin and his team to analyze the sounds of the port to better understand the effects of development on life in the depths.

Chaque lieu d'enregistrement est soigneusement inscrit dans le carnet de bord de l'hydrophone

Each recording location is carefully noted in the hydrophone’s logbook

To extend these analyses, TARA will make new recordings during the campaign in northern latitudes. “With these sound samples, we hope to analyze the song-structure of humpback whales in the area, and collect data on the behavior and status of other species we’ll detect.” A scientific adventure that promises to mobilize TARA’s crew during the coming weeks — listening to the world of silence.

Pierre de Parscau

Five Spinner dolphins surfing TARA’s waves

June 30, 3.22 pm / coordinates 54°50′ N / 0°11′ E

Air temperature: 15.3°C

Water temperature: 14.6°C

While on the way to Greenland, TARA was sailing along the east coast of England when five grey and white torpedoes cut through the turquoise water. A group of particularly playful Spinner dolphins entertained the crew for an amazing quarter of an hour. Pirouetting under the surface and surfing waves, the five marine mammals, more than 2 meters long, dazzled with their speed (above 9 knots) and the ease with which they moved in the crystal-clear water. One last dive and they disappeared, leaving Tara’s crew on deck, happy to have felt like children again.

Pierre de Parscau

 

Dauphins Risso au large de la côte Est de l'Angleterre

Dauphins Risso au large de la côte Est de l'Angleterre

Dauphins Risso au large de la côte Est de l'Angleterre

Dauphins Risso au large de la côte Est de l'Angleterre

Pierre de Parscau

Heading North

Heading North

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At 5 in the morning under an orange sky, the crew headed the boat out to sea. TARA drifted slowly with the current, as if not to awaken the sleeping city of Rouen. The Gustave Flaubert Bridge was raised, marking the start of a long-awaited 3-month campaign. Bleary-eyed but light-hearted, sailors and passengers pulled in the ropes for the last time before the next port, Akureyri. The very name evokes adventure. A few loops of the Seine later, a nordic vision struck us all on the bow: the coolness of the morning had covered the surface of the river with mist, and TARA headed into a sea of clouds that looked like a steamy icepack.

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Tancarville, Normandy Bridge, Le Havre: the Seine seemed to push us even faster out to sea. In the middle of the Le Havre channel, the needle of the wheelhouse compass slowly moved to point zero: We were heading due North – finally.

After months of construction, weeks of preparation, and days of river navigation, and prior to the Paris Climate conference (COP21) at the end of the year, it was time to head for latitudes already familiar to the schooner. Near Le Havre, a zodiac came to meet us. It was the younger brother of Do, the cook on board, passing as a neighbor to call out a last goodbye before the two-and-a-half month expedition that will keep TARA far from French coasts. The foghorn sounded a last farewell as the schooner headed out to sea.

 

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On board the pace of activity quickened, especially with the rise of an unexpected breeze from the northwest – a chance to give the engines a rest and also the pleasure of feeling ourselves carried by the sea breeze. In the cockpit, Martin the captain kept his eye on the route, while out on deck a crew of old-timers and new-comers got into position for the first maneuver. Electric winch, halyards and sheets, each person found his place as the mainsail and foresail swelled in a cooler wind.

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In the belly of TARA, front and rear holds had been filled to the brim in Rouen. No less than 9 cubic meters of scientific equipment and food, mostly destined for the EcoPolaris mission that TARA will refuel when we arrive on the east coast of Greenland. The ship should reach this destination around July 11th. But before reaching the icy coasts and fjords, TARA must navigate the 1,600 miles still separating us from Icelandic shores. Our route will take us through the English Channel and its uninterrupted traffic of huge cargo ships; along the east coast of the UK with its many offshore platforms; and finally to the open sea. The dotted red line marking our route on the GPS map follows the Normandy cliffs, snaking among the huge container ships on the horizon.

Already the white line of the Normandy cliffs disappears from view, leaving only a charcoal gray sea surrounding TARA, and a promise: England tomorrow.

Pierre de Parscau

 

Goodbyes and Hellos

Goodbyes and Hellos

Largage d'amarre à Lorient

After several months at dock, it seemed as if TARA wanted to stretch her sails. For several days there was a certain feeling of impatience during conversations in the main cabin. Since the departure of the Volvo Ocean Race, the docks of Lorient remained empty, and it was clearly time for TARA to raise anchor.

At 3:30 pm on Sunday Tara’s foghorn reverberated across the Lorient docks. A starting signal and final goodbye to those remaining behind, waving their hands at the end of the quay until the familiar silhouette disappeared in the sunlight. In short, the life of a sailor, with tugs at the heartstrings and the Ocean beginning its spectacle in front of the bow. A few manoeuvres and the rolling of the boat quickly bring smiles to the faces of the sailors – so happy to be back in their natural environment.

Derniers adieux sur le quai de Lorient

Finally heading west, wind and sun in my eyes for a first voyage along the coast before sailing to the North Atlantic, the Arctic Circle and Greenland’s cold. Up until our departure the holds were being loaded with the last supplies, and the cabins filled up with people, delighted to share with TARA this journey to Rouen. Olivier, Jules, Doug, Catherine and Gerard – 12 of us traveling together on a route traced by Captain Martin Hertau with a pointer on the GPS map in the wheelhouse: Raz de Sein, Channel Islands, Raz Blanchard – key points on a kind of warm-up trip before hitting the open sea.

After a quick stopover in Roscoff tomorrow night on the occasion of the Jacques Monod conference, Tara will arrive in the center of Rouen on the night of Wednesday to Thursday. We’ll stay in the heart of the “City of 100 Steeples” to meet the public and schoolchildren, but also to play the role of Ambassador of the Climate at the ARF national convention (Association of Regions of France) held in Rouen June 25 – 26. In addition, TARA will take aboard 6 cubic meters of material destined for Greenland – logistical support for the EcoPolaris expedition. Food, fuel and equipment will eventually be dropped off on the east coast, allowing on-site teams to continue their research on the ecosystems of circumpolar countries.

Dauphins communs à la rencontre de TARA

Off the starboard side, through binoculars we watch the coast of Brittany running by. Suddenly we feel movement in front of the bow. Leaning over the railing, Doug points to a form below the surface. Driven beyond Tara’s wake, 4 dolphins are jumping out of the water, or swimming like torpedoes beneath the schooner’s hull. After the goodbyes on the docks, it’s as if the sea were giving us a very special welcome.

Pierre de Parscau

Related articles:

- Tara’s Cuisine

- Correspondent’s report

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Video: TARA, first in line for the volvo ocean race

VIDEO: TARA, FIRST IN LINE FOR THE VOLVO OCEAN RACE

This week, the organizers of the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) set up operations on the quays of the  Lorient base for the final stop in this race around the world.
A few meters away from TARA, the British skipper Sam Davis and her ten team members crossed the finish line to everyone’s complete surprise and put the entirely female crew in the spotlight. We had a chance to meet this Breton by adoption aboard her boat SCA and talk about the role of TARA on the starting line, before the VOR finally arrives in Gothenburg.

Tara’s cuisine

Tara’s cuisine

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After more than seven months in Lorient, it’s time for TARA to head out to the open sea. This Sunday, the boat will weigh anchor to navigate some 6,000 nautical miles across Iceland, Greenland, Sweden and England. Nine weeks of sailing that require careful preparation during the last hours at dock, and the perfect opportunity to find out what the boat really has in its belly.

Yesterday TARA took the opportunity to fill its reservoirs with 20,000 liters of diesel, enough to make it through to next year’s checkup in a shipyard. Besides tools, equipment, and fittings, there’s another task concerning supplies: the food. The kitchen, with the engine room, is the second beating heart of TARA, and for this summer campaign it’s Dominique’s realm. It’s been 3 years since this former nurse left her white uniform on land for an apron on board. “It corresponded to a period in my life where I could change jobs, have time for myself, so when the chance to embark came up, I took the opportunity.”

Since the first meals she prepared in Ireland, “Do” (as everyone on board calls her) has developped a taste for travel — from Norway to the Mediterranean to the legendary Northwest Passage. And despite her kitchen responsibilties, Do won’t stay confined. “As soon as I hear the crew manoeuvering the boat, I stop everything and go up on deck. Even if the sailors don’t really need me, I still can participate in one way or another. I don’t want to be just a cook. I need to get involved in the manoeuvres.” At the stove and on the “coffee grinders”, those winches on deck for taking up slack during manoeuvres, Do must satisfy the stomachs of 16 crew members aboard and up to 30 guests at certain ports-of-call.

For the upcoming voyage to Greenland, the quantities loaded aboard are dizzying: 150kg flour, 40kg sugar, 65kg pasta and 100 chocolate bars. “I have to calculate the quantities needed for three and a half months, knowing that in Greenland we can’t stock up. When we leave, we’re generally autonomous for the duration of the expedition, except for some occasional fresh produce at stopovers.”

Avant le départ, Do vérifie soigneusement les quantités

Before departure, Do carefully checks the quantities

To assess the magnitude of the task, we follow Do during one of her outings in Lorient, between fish mongers, organic food market and supermarkets. With her unique shopping list, her TARA T-shirt and her smile, Do attracts the kindness of shopkeepers and producers. “People are often curious about what we do on TARA, and they help me. They understand our needs and put aside not-too-ripe vegetables so we can keep them longer. “For example, the farmer from whom I ordered this morning:  I’m sure there won’t be a single damaged vegetable in the box he’ll deliver.” Meeting TARA’s cook is a taste of adventure coming to the market stands. There are discussions and questions, and the merchants are happy to have their products sail off to distant lands. A jar of jam, a bunch of radishes or a few fish – lots of small gifts added to the supplies on board. They’re stored in every corner of TARA because the 2 large shelves in the forward hold, the freezer and 3 refrigerators are not big enough for this precious cargo. Provisions are stored everywhere, under the cabin bunks and benches in the main room – unexpected pantries that always draw smiles from TARA’s visitors. Imaginative cooking is probably the best ally of the on board cook. “When I’m running out of fresh products, I try to find recipes that taste fresh. Sometimes with only one zucchini for 15 people, added to tagliatelle, we still feel like we’re eating something green (laughs).”

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Oriental spices and condiments in the kitchen drawers

But true happiness for cooks at sea is contained in one word: stopover. In the markets of ports and medinas during the Tara Mediterranean expedition, the kitchen was garnished with exotic aromas and spicy flavors. Do safeguards these collected treasures in one of the kitchen drawers, like a small condiment museum. Spices from Algeria, Lebanese cinnamon and white pepper from Egypt – so many gustatory postcards whose fragrances sometimes pervade the dining room with a reminder that aboard TARA, the journey often begins on the plate.

Pierre de Parscau

Related articles:

- Video: follow the guide!
- Subscribe to the Tara Newsletter

Video: Follow the guide!

Video: Follow the guide!

Staying at quay often means open house for TARA. The presence of the schooner in Lorient during the Volvo Ocean Race was no exception, even embodied by a familiar figure aboard: Philippe Duflot. This highly active retiree has been volunteering for three years and has become one of Tara’s ambassadors. His talent? Introducing the vessel to dozens of visitors of all ages every day, and accompanying their first steps aboard the schooner. The opportunity was too good not to capture the fascinated gazes of the younger visitors and pay tribute to such a patient and tireless guide.

Correspondent’s report

Correspondant’s report

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In the aluminum belly of TARA, the correspondent’s office is as much a laboratory as a refuge. Nestled below the main cabin, the space is shared with the captain’s desk. For over 10 years, different storytellers have taken turns aboard. Each one has left his or her mark in the pages of the logbook, translating the adventures of Tara into words and images, and offering readers a chance to take part in these exceptional expeditions. The authors have turned their stories into memories, and continue to pass the flame from one voyage to another.

For the first time, we were 2 correspondents aboard TARA in Lorient this week. Two generations of journalists: the long experience of Vincent Hilaire confronting my recent discovery of TARA. This was an opportunity for me to put Vincent on the other side of the camera, and talk with him about his love affair with the schooner: a journalistic romance that began in 2007 during the Tara Arctic expedition, somewhere on the ice pack.

“I had landed on the ice pack one kilometer from the boat which was caught in the ice. The crew on board came to fetch us. We arrived aboard Tara in this incredible landscape. I went up on deck, and they had prepared a welcome meal in the main cabin. I was overwhelmed by the smells of kerosene, humans, and food. It wasn’t very appetizing (laughs). But it was really amazing to be there on the ice for an indeterminate time.”  A first impression of amazement at the landscape that Vincent has continued to translate through his numerous photographs, alternating color and black and white. Not easy today to choose his favorite among them if he could keep only one. “There were so many beautiful things,” he says with a smile. I would probably keep the photo that still hangs in the main cabin of the boat. This photo shows TARA head-on, some 80 meters in front of the bow – a ghost ship stuck in ice and the polar night. It was a very emotional moment, and the photo is like evidence for me – proof that I was really there. It will certainly be one of the best images of my life.”

 

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Son of a sports journalist, Vincent worked for France 3 and spent 20 years writing for the daily press.  Aboard Tara for a total of a year and a half, he was able to experience the different aspects of the correspondent’s job. “This was a new profession that I’d never done before. I was a member of the crew, and filmed people in proximity, not easy on a boat, and even less so during a polar expedition. Journalists like to get answers, but must absolutely understand the fact that we’re living a very special experience. It takes a lot of psychology. It’s a fascinating position, but requires adaptability. It’s a different job from being a journalist on land, and a real pleasure to be an ambassador for this great adventure. One learns to juggle photography, writing, video, and also participate in maneuvering the boat. “The correspondent’s involvement in daily life aboard must not prevent him from preserving the essential: his point of view. “You have to describe the work that all the people on board are accomplishing with great modesty, competence and passion. Focusing on them while keeping a little distance allows you to remain an observer.”

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Writing day after day the adventures of TARA is not an easy task, and despite the richness of these adventures as a team, the individual is sometimes neglected. “It’s a fabulous enrichment: sometimes you relay difficult scientific subjects, other times very strong human stories that touch the public. We’re like a repository of the beauty of these teams; new people are always relaying each other aboard, because embarking is a big investment of time, and we are sometimes happy to return to land.

Returning to land is always a moment of respite for Vincent, until he feels the call of adventure again. “I love the sea, voyages, meeting people. I get real happiness from this. It gives meaning to my life and my work. Every time I meet up with TARA, whether here in Lorient or on the other side of the world, the 2 orange masts appearing on the horizon is always very moving.”

Vincent is currently finishing his documentary project “Greenlandia” devoted to the Inuits. He will follow Tara closely in the Pacific next year on an expedition about coral reefs.

Once a Taranaute, always a Taranaute.

Interview by Pierre de Parscau

 

TARA, resetting the counters

TARA, resetting the counters

Jean Collet dans l’atelier du TARA

Jean Collet in the Tara Workshop

After a 7-month expedition in the Mediterranean, Tara took a well-deserved rest, sheltered from the waves in the Keroman shipyard (Lorient). A time in drydock to prepare for future voyages to Greenland and the Pacific –  and the opportunity for the schooner to undergo a thorough checkup. Removal of the 2 motors, complete reconstruction of Thérèse (starboard engine) and replacement of the dry lab with a new cabin took 4 months of work. As for priorities on board, fixing the electrical system was among the most urgent. The opportunity to call on Jean Collet, one of the Tara old-timers, and technical director.

With his silver hair and broad shoulders, Jean is one of the people accompanying TARA since her construction. He contributed to Tara’s birth in 1989, alongside Jean-Louis Etienne, which has forever linked him to the fate of the schooner.

“When Etienne Bourgois had the idea of buying Sir Peter Blake’s Seamaster, I went to Newport to appraise the boat,” he recalls. “I found it in good enough condition to bring it back to France.  From that time on, Etienne asked me to take care of the boat technically, and supervise its renovation”.

 

Les nouvelles ampoules LED installées cet hiver à bord

New LED lighting installed this winter

A mission he has fulfilled on the TARA team since 2003, and which led him to direct the electrical overhaul done last winter. In the glow of the new LEDs installed above the work benches, Jean thinks back on this job, anticipated for several years.

“Since returning from the long Tara Oceans expedition, the boat was very tired: Certain electric components on board dated from 1989. To meet the needs of the expedition, the equipment had not always been transformed according to the rules. So we had to bring the boat up to date. 3 years ago we had already begun to think about repairing the electrical circuitry; we had also analyzed the problem of cisterns, leaks, and engines. A boat that works as hard as TARA requires constant maintenance. For the supervisor, the pleasure of working on the legendary schooner is accompanied by a more global reflection on the durability of the material. “One of the issues is knowing how far we can go with the equipment on board,” he explains. “For example, the engines date from 1989. Technology has evolved since then, and we wonder if we can continue to maintain them, or if it would be better to change them completely, and take advantage of the new technology. The other special aspect of TARA is the aluminum hull. When confronted with electrical leakage, if the current passes through the hull, it can cause corrosion we don’t necessarily see. That can weaken the hull, hence the importance of good insulation.”

To carry out the overhaul, TARA called in local businesses such as Barillec, whose ateliers are located in the port of Lorient. When you walk into their workshop, Romain Evenot’s smile gives you a warm welcome. This young engineer has swapped without regret the world of industry for that of boats. He supervised the installation of a new transformer aboard TARA.

 

Romain Evenot, ingénieur chez Barillec

Romain Evenot, engineer at Barillec

“This is a control panel we ourselves installed here almost 20 years ago, with modifications that are no longer adapted to the needs of the crew”, he explains amidst cable drums in the workshop. The objective was to redo everything, based on the current needs. Improving the distribution of electrical power was sometimes very challenging during the 4 weeks of renovation. “Aboard TARA everything is compact. The boat is relatively small and it was a real challenge to cram everything into the available space.”

Schéma du nouveau transformateur installé sur TARA

Diagram of the new transformer installed on TARA

Aboard TARA again. Jean leads me to the rear deck and looks over the boat.
“This is really how I imagine expedition ships during the Age of Enlightenment and the voyage of Bougainville. A boat is a tool and what’s interesting in Tara’s case is to see how this tool is used. Humans are curious by nature, and our way of advancing is to be interested in our environment. Science is very important for that. Here we meet sailors, scientists, artists, sharing the same view of humanity, the same curiosity, and that’s what excites me.”

A passion that will inspire Jean to embark aboard TARA next month to confront the ice of Greenland.

 

Louis Wilmotte et le nouveau tableau du bord

Louis Wilmotte and the new circuit panel

Pierre de Parscau

Ocean Day, D-Day for the big blue

It’s a few months before the COP21 summit to be held next December in Paris. Today at UNESCO headquarters people concerned about climate change met on the occasion of World Oceans Day.

En direct du bateau, les marins soutiennent l'Appel de l'Océan pour le Climat. #OceanForClimate

Political leaders, scientists and the general public convened to discuss the future of our oceans and the impact of climate change on the “blue lung” of the planet.

The Tara team was present alongside Laurent Fabius (Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development) and HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco to bear witness to the impact of global warming on the world’s seas and their inhabitants.

This ecosystem is becoming increasingly fragile but its slow deterioration is not even on the agenda of discussions planned for the COP21.This alarming situation was recently reinforced by the latest Tara Mediterranean expedition devoted to micro-plastics: the first results underscore the impact of man on the marine environment. Given the scale of climatic events and public and scientific mobilization, Laurent Fabius announced that an entire day would be devoted to the issue of the oceans during the COP 21.

To emphasize the importance of oceans even more in future debates, and to convince world leaders participating in the COP21 to take firm decisions, TARA today participated in the Ocean’s Call for the Climate launched by the Ocean & Climate Platform at #OceanForClimate. Partners, associations and individual citizens have expressed their solidarity and support for the Ocean through social networks.

On this occasion, TARA’s crew participated in the event from the quay in Lorient.

Follow their example and send us your photo holding the #OceanForClimate sign. You may be lucky enough to be selected to appear on the home page https://www.change.org/p/together-let-us-give-the-ocean-a-voice-OceanforClimate where you will find the Ocean’s Call for the Climate, as well as the proposals which will be presented to policy makers at the COP21.

Related articles:

- Read the article about Tara, Member of the Ocean and Climate Platform
World Oceans Day at UNESCO
- Ocean and Climate, tools for understanding

ITW of Etienne Bourgois and Romain Troublé : “There will be a before and after Tara Oceans”

Begun nearly 6 years ago, the Tara Oceans expedition on marine plankton that ended 2 years ago is yielding its first scientific results. And they are major! For Etienne Bourgois (President of Tara Expeditions) and Romain Troublé  (Managing Director) this is a fundamental moment for the Ocean, for science and for Tara.


What is the main fact that we learn from these results?
Romain Troublé, Managing director:  Tara Oceans scientists have uncovered a totally unknown world: we have identified several million new genes that will transform the way we study the oceans and perhaps the way we assess climate change. For the first time a link is clearly established between the temperature of the Ocean and the composition of the ecosystem living in its upper layers.

In what way are this expedition and its followup innovative?
Romain Troublé: This is the first study of the planetary plankton ecosystem. Tara Oceans is scientific ecology based on 12 different research disciplines. The strength of this project is that the scientists involved have been working together all over the world since 2008 to achieve today’s results, and they will continue in the future.
Etienne Bourgois, President: This expedition is also a story of men and women, scientists mobilized by Eric Karsenti, institutional and private partners who have followed us from the beginning, and of course sailors. There’s a “Tara spirit” that continues in the laboratories, and is transmitted at each stopover. We received wonderful welcomes in ports-of-call throughout the Tara Oceans expedition.

Is this the most important thing that’s happened since you created Tara Expeditions?
Etienne Bourgois: Scientifically, yes. This is the first time we’ve gotten such results from Tara. I’ve been expecting them for a long time, since the boat accomplished this expedition between 2009 and 2013! We’ve proven that on a 36-meter sailboat, we can do top-level science that complements what is being done on larger vessels. This also offers enormous perspectives on upcoming results. One can imagine that we know everything about the Earth, but actually very little is known, particularly about the oceans. I am quite proud that Tara Oceans scientists from the CNRS, CEA and EMBL are contributing very important elements of knowledge to the scientific community, but also to the general public. History will tell, but there will probably be a “before” and an “after” Tara Oceans.

We are in “Climate Year,” and in planning stages for the 2015 Climate Conference in Paris. Do these results establish a link between plankton and climate?
Romain Troublé: Yes. Temperature influences the composition of the planktonic ecosystem, on the surface and down to a depth of 500 meters. The Tara Oceans results prove this link, but there is still much research to be done on the data which is now in the public domain. What we knew before the expedition began, and what everyone agrees upon, is that plankton stores over 25% of the CO2 we emit. Plankton is the world’s main supplier of oxygen. I hope we will soon have further details.

Are other results expected?
Romain Troublé: Yes, of course. The scientists are not going to stop now. This is just the beginning, and it’s very exciting! Especially as next year, we will lead a two year expedition in the Pacific ocean with some of these scientists and with an international (and partly Asian) team…

Related articles:
- The scientific objectives of the expedition
- Onboard scientific equipment during Tara Oceans expedition
- The best videos of the expedition between 2009 and 2012, then in 2013 in the Arctic (part 1 and part 2)
- The logbook between september 2009 and december 2013
- Christian Sardet’s website “Plankton Chronicles” (scientific coordinator of the Tara Oceans expedition)

‘Art Deco’ students inspired by Tara

20  first-year students from ENSAD (Ecole Nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, also known as “Arts Déco”) sailed for a whole day aboard Tara.

This is the second consecutive year that Tara and the ENSAD have organized a colloboration.

Remi Hamoir, professor of drawing at “Art Deco,” initiated the project. He had the opportunity to sail  aboard Tara as an artist-in-residence during the Tara Oceans Expedition in 2010. When last year the school was seeking a strong theme for its workshops, Remi suggested the partnership with Tara. But this year the approach is new: the students leave Paris for Brittany in search of inspiration.

After 2 days of collecting materials, colors and ideas on the beaches of the Morbihan, the students come aboard the schooner full of enthusiasm. They realize how fortunate they are, and make the most of it! On deck and in the main cabin, students scribble in notebooks with India ink and charcoal. They take photos, record videos and sounds. Others are happy just observing, opening up all their senses. “We’re filling up on images and sensations. For example, the movement of the boat is very special, and there are so many smells, sounds,” says Anaïs with a smile and a sparkle in her eyes. The students really enjoy this approach. They realize the importance of immersing themselves in the subject to tap into emotions. Far from the usual basic training, the assignment here is “Don’t go to places you already know.”

Over the next 2 weeks, each student will create artwork on the theme “Water of the Sea” for an upcoming exhibition at the Tara Base in Paris. The inauguration will take place in the presence of agnès b. “The challenge of this exhibition is to do something simple and sensitive,” says Anaïs. Heloise and Anais conclude together: “The fact that this work deals with the sea, which is beautiful and touches us, is a way to raise awareness.” By focusing attention on the beauty of the oceans, hopefully the public will become aware of the need to protect them.

Maéva BARDY

From the Mediterranean Sea to Maine: Itinerary of a Taranaut

In the Haëntjens family, there is the father Cyril, whose business France Collectivités SAS collaborates with Tara Expéditions, and the son Nils, engineer and versatile trainee aboard the Tara Mediterranean expedition. Both are enthusiastic sailors. Nils personifies quiet strength. Cheerful and friendly, he fits the profile of the perfect sailing partner. For this young engineer, the Tara adventure has extended far beyond the Mediterranean basin where it began.

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While the schooner spent the winter in Lorient, Nils was on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, on the east coast of the United States, not far from the Canadian border. Thanks to an encounter aboard Tara, he is now pursuing his scientific career in a laboratory at the University of Maine. During a Skype exchange with journalist-correspondent Noëlie Parisot, Nils explained the link between Tara and the NASA-funded project on optical measurements of the oceans he’s currently working on. Here is the summary of their conversation:

« The snow has finally melted! » After a few minutes of discussion on Skype, his words came across full of emotion. Settled in Maine since January, Nils discovered a harsh climate nothing like in France. Though he enjoyed skiing on the 40-km of cross-country trails surrounding the university, spring offers new perspectives for exploration, and Nils has already exchanged his snowshoes for a canoe.

Sitting at his desk in his student room on the campus, Nils presents his project for the next two years: «I’m studying for a masters degree in oceanography in Emmanuel Boss’s scientific laboratory at the University of Maine.» They met during the Tara Mediterranean expedition while sailing from Cyprus to Malta. Emmanuel, a professor of marine science specializing in optical data, was looking for a scientist to entrust with several on-board instruments, as well as to perform field experiments on a Hyperspectral Tethered Spectral Radiometer Buoy (HTSRB) and a CTD instrument package used to measure the Conductivity, Temperature and Depth of seawater. Nils got the job. Later on, Emmanuel offered him a position in the United States to work on a newly-funded project. Nils didn’t hesitate one second!

Asked about the work he’s performing in the laboratory, he answers: « The goal is to study the mass and distribution of phytoplankton in the ocean using optical tools. I’m focussing on a particular project. We receive satellite data on plankton distribution that require calibration. To do this, we send out buoys, sort of like the CTD aboard Tara, except in this case they are autonomous tools that transmit data to the laboratories via satellites. We are going to create new, more precise buoys equipped with hyperspectral radiometers that will help calibrate the next generation of satellites, operational in 2020 ».

Do we know why the actual measures are biased? « Yes, we do. When satellites take a picture, the light they receive is modified by the atmosphere. This is a first factor, but there are others that need to be taken into account. For instance, when we place a sensor in the ocean, it generates its own shadow, therefore modifying the environment we intend to measure. My job is to apprehend how this sensor is going to affect its environment, by how much, and then determine what corrections should be applied in order to get the right measurement, as if the sensor wasn’t present. To do this, I perform Monte-Carlo simulations. »

Nils seems to have been infected with the science virus and his computer-engineer skills allow him to analyze a huge quantity of data.

Well integrated in his new environment, he is even beginning to look for words in his native language! He spends his free time exploring the coast: «So far, I love it, it’s so completely different from Paris. Living in the countryside, I practice many outdoor activities, such as hiking and mountain biking. The coast is really beautiful, serrated and fringed by pine woods. No two bays look alike.»

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Nils’ loved ones organized Tara’s stopover and visits in their fief, Penerf, in Brittany last April. Tara is a full member of the Haëntjens family, and Nils’ time aboard seems to have opened a new professional path for him.

Interview by Noëlie Pansiot

 

Tara is sailing again after several months of renovation.

After the public outreach mission in Penerf, Tara headed back to Lorient. On the way, the 2 engines, Brigitte (port-side) and Thérèse (starboard) had a few problems – not surprising after 4 months of renovation. The 1,2-ton giants have been in service nearly 30 years, moving Tara’s 140 tons across the seas of the world.

Brigitte had several worrisome drops in speed, maybe a problem of fuel supply. The first mate Daniel Cron went down to the engine room when Thérèse started showing the same symptoms.

Finally, Brigitte held up until Lorient, thanks to regular purging of the fuel filter to remove the air bubbles responsible for her hiccups.  As for Theresa, more fear than harm. A leak came from a failure of the cooling pump. With the engine shut off, the pump was repaired in time for arrival. Tara sailed calmly through the Lorient channel powered by 2 engines, thanks to the perseverance of the 2 mechanics, Loic and Daniel, who spent most of the journey in the engine room.

Tara must be ready for future missions. This summer, Greenland; next year the Pacific and Southeast Asia. The secret? The crew’s constant work to keep the boat in good shape. Almost daily maintenance is required. After long missions, Tara returns to Lorient, her home port, for a complete overhaul – 4 months this winter (including 2 months in dry dock) were required to verify the fuel tanks, valves, and propeller shaft. The engines were also overhauled: gaskets, pistons, etc. – a necessary step in getting the boat back into optimal form. Considering Tara’s age, efforts are increased, each element of this proud ship is pampered, and all parts showing signs of wear are carefully checked.

This voyage was the opportunity to test repairs and fine-tune certain adjustments. In one month Tara will be totally ready for her next adventures!

Maéva Bardy

 

Tara’s fete

Tara arrived friday evening in Penerf. An SNSM* boat helped the aluminium giant manoeuvre in the narrow channel – between oyster beds and shallows – to reach a mooring where the schooner stayed until monday.

We were greeted with great fanfare by the inhabitants of Penerf and Pencadenic, two villages located on opposite sides of the Penerf River. Bagpipes and bombards sounded aboard the SNSM boat and made us forget the gray weather of this late afternoon.

Tara celebrated all weekend. People from the region were here to meet us, and even some visitors came from Paris, Toulouse, etc. Some are just curious, but others have been following Tara for many years and a little rain won’t stop them! Over the weekend, more than 600 people took the shuttle boat to come and visit the legendary schooner. Everybody is fascinated by the history of Tara and her crew, and on this level, they got what they came for! Of the 7 people on board, including 5 sailors, a cook and a journalist, most have already been on long expeditions with Tara (Tara Arctic, Tara Oceans, Polar Circle, or Tara Mediterranean) and are full of anecdotes to tell.

At the Oyster House, the room was packed for a screening of “Journey to the Heart of the Climate Machine.” Vincent Hilaire, correspondent aboard the Tara Arctic missions, came to sign his book «Voyage autour du pôle à bord de Tara». He answered questions, many of which reflect current concerns about climate change. Tara has a magnetic effect, captivating the attention of visitors of all ages.

Saturday night, near Pencadenic, the rain finally stopped. We ended the day in style with oysters offered by the local oyster farmers, an all-you-can-eat Eco-soup, and a rock ‘n’ roll concert – the occasion for everyone to spend an evening talking about the experiences of these adventurous sailors.

Maéva Bardy

* Société Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer

 

Embarked on Tara

Although I just embarked aboard Tara as correspondent, I already feel rather at home. This impression is probably due to the comfort found in all the living areas.

The main cabin is the most spacious and brightest thanks to large windows and a ceiling in the form of a transparent bubble which lets in lots of light. Wide passages allow easy access between the main cabin and the bow, and the cabins are pleasant thanks to hatches that let in plenty of natural light. Other small details also caught my attention like a rather well-stocked library, showers with hot water, and radiators in all common rooms to combat the cold during polar missions. As for the well-equipped kitchen, it almost makes us forget that we are on a boat.

At the same time, this impression is not surprising for a ship that goes on expeditions to the “end of the world,” sometimes for several years. The turnover of crew members (sailors, scientists, cook and correspondent) happens regularly, so we need to feel quickly at ease.

In fact, I was especially impressed with the work environment. Everything is carefully organized. ‘Post-its’ on a bulletin board let everyone know the current tasks and those remaining to be done. The day begins at 8am, and every morning at the work meeting each crew member is invited to speak about the tasks he set himself for the day, the estimated time required, and the difficulties encountered. Even after several months of renovation, there are still a lot of things to finish: a carpet to change in the main area, an arduous search for an insulation fault in the cockpit’s motor console, creating storage shelves in the rear hold, and the installation of 120 LEDs to replace the old lighting system.

In short, no time to be idle. Everything must be in order for our arrival today in Penerf where we’ll be involved in communication and educational outreach with the general public. Visitors are expecting us on Saturday and they certainly must not suspect the work-site atmosphere that prevailed on board the day before.

Maéva Bardy

Portrait of an apprentice adventurer

Louis Wilmotte is an apprentice electrician full of humor. The Taranautes highly praise this young adventurer, and compliments abound every time his name is mentioned. With his endearing and slightly wacky character, young Louis really livens up the atmosphere of the boat. Portrait of an apprentice adventurer.

He looks a little like the well-known comedian/actor Gad Elmaleh. Louis sailed  on Tara for the first time 3 years ago from Brittany to Ireland, and thanks to his perseverance, he was able to join the team: “I saw the boat return to Lorient from the Tara Arctic expedition in 2008. I was 17 and had just started my technical studies. I sent in my resumé many times before being taken aboard as a rookie. Finally, when the schooner returned from Tara Oceans in 2012, I was contacted to work on the construction site.” Louis now divides his time between classes at the IUT (Technical University) of Nice and his work on board. And he’s virtually bursting with ideas involving renewable energy to set up on the boat.

When not working on Tara’s electrical circuitry, Louis sets off on an adventure. Inspired by Kim Hafez, Sylvain Tesson and Alexandre Poussin, he does everything not to be a passive reader. “I read a lot of stories of adventurers,     people who did extraordinary things.  And then one day reading is not enough and you say to yourself ‘why not me’?” That’s how Louis and his friend Douglas imagined the project “Mare Nostrum,” a one-year-and-four-month voyage across the Mediterranean, from Gibraltar to Istanbul, in a kayak.

In May 2013, the young electrician boarded Tara Oceans and made a crossing to Tromsø, Norway. 3 weeks later, he went to Gibraltar for Mare Nostrum.  First sketched out on a simple piece of paper, the project required one and a half years of preparation before hitting the water. And the 12-month journey turned into 15 months of adventure, thanks to the financial support of the Sorbonne and the DCNS.
10,000 km were traveled  in all kinds of weather using biceps-power, “an interesting physical commitment.” This was not his first attempt. He had crossed France by kayak from Brest to Collioure in 2009.
Inspired by Tara, the 2 rowers took samples for the University of Toulon and the Observatory of Villefranche-sur-Mer, and they communicated with schoolchildren. “At the beginning you start with nothing, just 2 students who have a project; then you meet some interested people. Finally, you land a first partnership thanks to a few dreamers who give you a hand.”

For Louis, one adventure follows another. Between his arrival in Istanbul in a kayak and his last voyage aboard Tara in October, only 3 short weeks have passed. After 15 months of camping, Louis was happy to be warm, to put on clean socks every morning, and let himself be pampered by Tara’s cook Dominique. The apprentice was happy to let go of the oars, do other things with his hands, and then return to his studies. Louis knows that other adventures lie ahead: “Once I’ve filled up on human warmth, eaten well again, and had enough of school, it will be time for me to return to crazier things.”  For this Taranaute, adventure is a viral itch.

Noëlie Pansiot

Visit Mare Nostrum project’s website

Related articles:

- Read the last log:  “The boat notes”

- Read Corentin de Chatelperron (Nomad of the seas) interview

 

The boat notes

After 3 months in drydock, the boat was reassembled piece by piece by the on-site team and is now afloat. The last bolts must be tightened before April 25, date of our stopover in Pencadenic (Morbihan region of Brittany).

If you’re about to dismantle this… well good luck!

As on every construction site, the sailors have ventured into unexpected corners, raised unexplored trapdoors, discovered forgotten recesses, and have even ventured into the fuel tanks that were degassed for inspection. Behind a wooden plate, a metal part or object, they sometimes found little notes scribbled by their predecessors. Some of the memos caused laughter, others were intriguing. They have fueled discussions, and spurred the imagination of the crew who have become players in a real-life ‘Cluedo’ game… “It was Danou, with a black marker behind the fridge!”

Daniel Cron, aka Danou, chief engineer, has already played the game, as creator but also as a player: “It started several years ago. We discovered notes in some really unlikely places, rarely taken apart. Now it’s our turn to write messages to the attention of those who will find them in the future.” Only writing lingers on.

On a wooden board located somewhere under the main cabin, near the bulkhead that serves as entry, someone wrote, “si tu en es là, c’est que tu vas en baver.” In other words, “the task you are about to do is not easy … so good luck!” On the ballast cover, the sailors found the note “tightened in 2011,” with a GPS location in the Indian Ocean. Behind the refrigerator, Danou and Dominique, the cook, left their own indelible memo. What did they write? Those who have the task of moving the heavy fridge will discover it someday, probably during the next renovation. And they in turn can leave a trace of their passage on board.

 

Noëlie Pansiot

It’s almost Spring

Three days before her launching in Lorient, the spring equinox, and “the tide of the century,” Tara is enjoying the sunrise before the eclipse.

On board, the last details are being fine-tuned for the target date. Daniel Cron and Loïc Caudan are at the machines, Christophe is setting the last screws, Nicolas Delabrosse and Matthieu Oriot are reassembling winches and preparing the bridge, Jean Collet is supervising the crane and boat slip. Everything is managed with calm and good humor under the watchful eye of the captain, Samuel Audrain.

During these three months of dry dock, a real group of friends has formed. Some knew each other from previous expeditions, but new arrivals have joined the mix. Everyone is working towards the same goal and everything is going smoothly. A strange coincidence happened this morning. While listening to France Inter radio, we heard our sponsor agnès b. talking about springtime. For her, springtime is eternal. She admits that she goes around humming all the time. On board it’s like that, too.

Tara has been rejuvenated, and everyone feels they’ve done something good for the boat.

Loïc and Daniel accomplished an immense job of disassembling and reassembing the starboard engine. On paper it only takes one sentence but you have to imagine the patience and diligence they applied, a guaranteed success!

Christophe the magician reconverted the former dry lab into a cabin, and following Samuel Audrain’s plans, recreated a new dry lab in place of the small workspace. Amazing job! Besides that, he redid the insulation of the access hatches to the engines in the main cabin, and even Jean donned his blue overalls to help. Such is the tight-knit friendship of this group!!

Matthew and Nicolas re-installed the propeller cowlings and in anticipation of the annual safety inspection,  delved into a complete inventory of safety equipment, pharmaceuticals, maps and mandatory technical documents.

Louis Wilmotte piloted the electrical interventions, changed inverters, electrical panels and, eagerly awaited by all, began the installation of LEDs! Let there be light!

As for Samuel, he plays contortionist and orchestra conductor, juggling telephone and email, giving a helping hand to the others whenever he can, guiding external interventions, aided by Jean, the technical director of the construction site, who by the way regularly brings us great home-roasted  coffee.

All is well on board and we’re eager to get back to sea !!

Nicolas Bin

News from the captain

Work is going well in Keroman, the technical zone of Lorient. Tara is in dry dock for one month being renovated. “The whale” is in the expert hands of a small repair team, among them the captain Samuel Audrain, who has been working onboard for 9 years. He agreed to interrupt what he is was doing to tell us about the progress of the renovation. 

What is the major work being done on Tara?

We made a list of things to do when we returned from the Mediterranean expedition. We’re advancing gradually, but one thing adds to another and the list has gotten longer. Currently, we’re 5 people working on board: some sailors who know the boat, and others who are discovering Tara for the first time. We also bring in a team of welders full-time, and a carpenter. The boat is made of aluminum so there’s a lot of work to be done on the hull. We undertook a major overhaul of the motors. Work on “Therese,” the starboard engine, is a little behind schedule. She is still stripped and waiting for parts. The other important job concerns the diesel tanks. Tara has a 40,000-liter capacity divided in 5 tanks. After 25 years of sailing, the schooner is experiencing some electrolytical problems typical of aluminum boats: “cankers” have formed, ie, certain metal sheets were corroded in places, letting the smell of diesel fuel escape into some cabins. So we purged and cleaned all the tanks before pressurizing them in order to find the leaks. This is not an easy task because all the boat’s furnishings were built above these tanks. But we’re finally coming to the end.

We’re also checking the pumping and fire systems, and we’re modifying some pieces of aluminum pipe, etc. On deck we’re checking the winch transmission systems. In fact, as soon as we pick up a board in a certain place, or open up an area, we do a little check-up, or we reposition things to modify the systems. Obviously all this takes time, and we’re working within a deadline: Tara will be relaunched in late March or early April.

Work on the site is complementary to what you do everyday when sailing.

I’ve already participated in several boat renovations. As a crew member, being present during an overhaul is very interesting, because we discover other facets of the boat, we discover things we can not access at sea. It’s also very rewarding for Loïc and Nicolas who are working here for the first time. Loïc is taking apart “Thérèse” with Daniel, and he’s learning a lot.

From a personal point of view, in terms of rhythm, our habits are shaken up. I’m discovering land-life, with a small apartment, a social life, weekends, and time to do sports. All this is very different from what we experience at sea.

After the repairs, what preparations will the boat undergo?

At this point, we’re treating the schooner for symptoms of old age. The next work will be devoted to preparing for the Coral Mission 2016. We’ve already disassembled the dry lab and will transform it into a cabin. The lab will be housed in what used to be the “petit carré.” We’re thinking about changing the rear crane to accommodate a semi-rigid zodiac necessary for the diving program.

As you can see, we’ve also installed 2 large hatches in the main cabin, in order to access the engines easily, and not have to cut open the floor every time. Now everything is removable and we have access quickly. It’s a small change!

Interview by Noëlie Pansiot 

Meeting aboard Tara in dry dock

On the occasion of a quick trip to Brittany, Noëlie Pansiot (correspondent aboard the Tara Mediterranean expedition) visited Tara’s crew, busy renovating the boat in Lorient.    

This is the first time I’ve come aboard Tara since the end of my mission in November. I can’t wait to see my friends again, and visit the “whale” in dry dock. I glimpsed some pictures of the renovation – the boat seems vulnerable, revealing her guts.

It’s 7:55 when Daniel, Matthew and I arrive alongside Tara. We are punctual: the team briefing starts in 5 minutes. It’s daybreak, everything looks gray in the technical zone of Keroman, but the voluptuous forms of the schooner differ from the other ships sitting next to her. I walk over to the giants rising all around me, balanced on large cradles.

We access Tara’s bridge by steep scaffolding-stairs. The boys lead the way. They know this boat by heart. I do well climbing the steep steps, praying that the large wooden blocks supporting the boat are solid.

On board, Samuel Audrain, “Sam” the Captain, is already there with 2 newcomers: Loïc Caudan and Nicolas Bin. I am welcomed cheerfully by the group, and we exchange the familiar French “bises.”

“We don’t see you often!” After the greetings, the meeting can begin. It’s 8 am, and Nicolas just put the kettle on the stove.

Sam starts off by describing today’s work. Technical terms flow, but my brain is too foggy to understand the whole discussion. I rely on my dictaphone to capture everything that is said. Behind Sam, “Thérèse” the starboard engine lies at the center of what used to be the main cabin. We stand around one of the ‘survivors’ of the renovation: the small table located immediately to the right of the entrance. Everything else was dismantled in order to create hatches that will give access to the engine room. The scene gives the impression of a hospital operating room, with Thérèse undergoing open heart surgery. Looking closely, I see that only the kitchen hasn’t moved. The big, sharp knives are still hanging on the back wall above the work counter, and the postcard proclaiming “the meaning of life” is still there too.

Around the indispensable small table, sailors take turns speaking. My eyes are drawn to the bright colors of a myriad of “post-its” stuck on the cork bulletin board. This is the Captain’s new management tool! The principle is simple and effective: the different tasks are written on post-its and divided into 3 separate columns: “to do,” “ongoing,” and “done.” Post-its are moved from one column to another depending on the progress of renovation.

The kettle on the stove starts to whistle. It’s 8:20. Jean Collet, Tara’s technical manager on land, enters the room with a “bonjour.” Everyone now knows what to do. The day’s work can start. Mathieu disappears for a few minutes to don blue overalls and an old gray sweatshirt. His eternal Moleskine notebook in hand, he’s already carefully copying his notes. Daniel Cron, nicknamed “Danou” has disappeared into the hatch that leads underneath Thérèse in the engine room. Only his humming betrays his presence. I see the “As usual,” notes of Cloco, and gently make fun of the chief engineer who is always in a good mood when he works.

It’s time to say goodbye to the crew. I must hurry off to my rendez-vous at the ride-share meeting site. Danou proclaims with a wide smile: “I was under construction to meet you. »

It’s 9:20, and in the car taking me to Bordeaux, 2 passengers are already sitting next to the young driver. Their conversation immediately informs me: my traveling companions are sailors. Raphael works as boatswain on a new expedition ship, the Yersin. Christophe is also boatswain, and worked aboard the Antarctica (former name of Tara) in the 80s. This coincidence makes me smile. I send a text message to my friends on Tara, sure that they will smile too.

Noëlie Pansiot

  

Etienne Bourgois and Romain Troublé: “Linking environmental activists and policy makers”

Etienne Bourgois is the initiator and the president of Tara Expeditions. He shares responsibility for the project with Romain Troublé, secretary general of Tara. Both agree, they work together in “perfect harmony”.

Etienne, whose main role is CEO of agnès b, is involved in strategy and long-term vision for Tara Expeditions. He defines himself as an “agitator.” For Romain, Tara is his daily work.

We don’t usually interview you together. What links you?

Etienne Bourgois: We’re both passionate about the sea, adventure and the environment. Probably there’s also a touch of madness, since we’ve taken a lot of risks with this project over the past 10 years. That’s why we’re never bored, and the project lasts!

Romain Troublé: What links us is happiness. Thanks to Tara, we meet fantastic people, extremely competent, and so different at the same time. I think we’re both aware of this richness of experience..

Happy New Year!  What can we wish you for 2015?

Etienne Bourgois: That the climate conference in Paris at the end of this year lives up to our expectations, and that on this occasion France will lead Europe in focusing attention on the environment.

Romain Troublé: I would add a wish: that the Ocean occupies more space in climate talks in coming years. And also that our partners – so important to us – remain as proud as ever of their engagement at our sides.

What will you be doing this year in the context of the Climate Conference?

Romain Troublé: We want to highlight the relationship between the Ocean and Climate through events, conferences and Tara’s stopovers. We are a member of, and spend a lot of energy on the Ocean and Climate Platform that brings together nearly 40 scientific organizations, universities, nonprofit associations, foundations, science centers, public institutions, and businesses, with the support of UNESCO. This truly collaborative platform aims to bring more visibility to issues linking the Ocean and Climate, before and during the Climate Conference in Paris in December 2015.

Tara has developed an increasingly activist stance in recent years.

Etienne Bourgois: Of course the boat is as important as ever – it’s our main tool and symbol. But we’ve been spending a lot of time at sea for the past 10 years. It’s also important to take time to share the fruit of our research and our experiences with the general public and decision makers. It’s essential for us to make the link between actors in the field and policy makers. This is why we’re focusing particularly on our environmental commitment, and on our presence at international discussions about the Ocean. We were present, for example, just a few days ago at the UN, working towards establishing a legal status for the High Seas. We’ve been fighting this battle for nearly 3 years. The nations have agreed to launch negotiations on the future legal status of the High Seas, which in fact accounts for half of the planet. For us this is a great step forward, announcing 5 years of negotiations.

What are the most important events scheduled for this year?

Etienne Bourgois: The highlight of 2015 will be Tara’s stay in Paris during the last 2 months of the year. We will take the Ocean to Paris. Before that, a main event will happen on June 8th at UNESCO, during the international “Ocean and Climate” conference organized by France, Monaco and UNESCO. On that day, scientists will make a strong appeal to policy makers.

Also on the program for Tara: we are co-producing a feature-length documentary on the subject of Ocean and Climate, to be broadcast at prime time in November. 

Romain Troublé:  Another important part of our program this year concerns plastic, and the followup to the Tara Mediterranean Expedition in 2014. After the observations, what can be done? To bring together a large number of activists in the Mediterranean region, we are organizing in Monaco on March 10th and 11th – along with Surfrider Foundation Europe, the Mava Foundation, and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation – the conference “Plastic in the Mediterranean: Beyond the observations, what are the solutions?”

And at the Tara Base in Paris this year we will organize a series of exhibitions, screenings and conferences on topics that are dear to us.

Tara is currently undergoing renovation in Lorient. In what condition was the boat on returning from the Mediterranean in November?

Etienne Bourgois: The engines came back from this expedition worn out from idling during so many scientific stations. They are currently being re-conditioned. 2 hatches were installed in the floor of the main cabin to remove the engines for this work. Before we had to cut and reseal the floor each time!

Romain Troublé:  Today the boat is in dry dock. The crew is working on the hull, and on the electrical system. All the lighting – in cabins, on the deck, masts and machines – will be replaced by LEDs.

What is the program for the Tara expedition on coral, scheduled for 2016?

Etienne Bourgois: We began to work on coral during the Tara Oceans Expedition, between 2009 and 2012. This new expedition will be the occasion to go much deeper into the subject. It’s being conceived by some excellent scientists with whom we’ve worked before, and some new people.

Romain Troublé: Coral is the only animal that can be seen from space. Recent estimates indicate that about 20% of reefs have disappeared forever, 25% are in grave danger, and an additional 25% will be threatened by 2050. The Tara expedition on coral (2016 – 2018) is especially important in this context. We will work in collaboration with Asian laboratories. The research area will extend from Colombia to Indonesia, Polynesia, Japan, New Caledonia, Papua, Palau and Taiwan. We’re approaching the end of the scientific planning phase, and I can tell you that during this expedition, diving will be a new component of the Tara story. It’s very exciting! 

Are there any plans for a new polar expedition for Tara?

Etienne Bourgois: We have big ambitions for the next Tara polar mission in 2019. We’re taking the time to prepare it. Above all, and this is a scoop, we’re also beginning to think about building a Polar Base, and a new boat – a kind of son or daughter of Tara!

 

 

The architect of Tara: “It was a great experience. I have only good memories.”

When Tara arrived in Lorient last November after a 7-month expedition in the Mediterranean sea, everyone who had contributed in one way or another to the boat’s adventure was waiting patiently to welcome her. Among them was Oliver Petit, one of the 2 architects who designed the schooner.

25 years ago, Oivier and his friend Luc Bouvet drew the plans for Antarctica (Tara’s original name) for an expedition conceived by Jean-Louis Etienne. In Lorient, Olivier told us how moved he feels each time he visits Tara, remembering the good times he spent on board. His only regret: not having sailed to Antarctica. Olivier describes his meeting with Jean-Louis Etienne, and discusses the origin and the evolution of the project. A story of encounters, dreams and a strong dose of audacity!

How did you become involved in the Antarctica adventure?

I knew Jean-Louis Etienne because we had crossed the Pacific together on Pen Duick VI with Eric Tabarly. At the time, I was studying architecture and I was called to do military service. Every year, 3 or 4 conscripts were engaged to take care of Pen Duick VI. I was one of the lucky ones, just before Titouan Lamazou, who took my place the following year. (Other lucky ones were the Poupon brothers, Jean-François Coste, Lamazou and Jean-Louis Etienne.)  When I was aboard with Jean-Louis, we talked a lot. We were on night shift together, and we had fun imagining the ideal boat for traveling. 

How was this “ideal boat” you imagined?           

We were talking about space, and transporting equipment: sleds, ski-doos, etc. Jean-Louis was doing a lot of mountain climbing, and I did some too, as an amateur. So our ‘dream’ explorations were oriented towards mountains and sea. After this experience aboard Pen Duick, we remained very close, and have continued to do expeditions together: first to Greenland with Japy Hermes, and then to Patagonia aboard Gauloises 3 with a group of mountaineers. Once Jean-Louis completed his solo crossing of the North Pole, he wanted to build this boat – Antarctica, today named Tara. His team was able to raise funds, they embarked on the adventure, and we designed the boat. At the time I was working with Luc Bouvet, a naval architect and it was only the second boat we designed. We had done a first one with Titouan Lamazou. Not bad for some young kids just starting out! We were designing a 36-meter schooner, and didn’t realize what we’d gotten into.

When the chantier began, Jean-Louis’s team didn’t have all the necessary funding…

I think the financing of the project was kind of “ole, ole.” At the time, the engineer Michel Franco assisted Jean-Louis, and there was an incredible dynamic around these two guys! It was a powerful experience – only good memories. We were a group of friends, and we didn’t take ourselves too seriously. That may be why it worked: we really applied ourselves, but did the project without taking ourselves seriously!

So the expedition boat was conceived in this way.  How did you get the idea for these very unusual forms?

With Luc Bouvet, we imagined a boat that could spend the winter on the icepack. The boat’s forms

really come from that! If we had wanted to make a boat just to sail, the forms would have been totally different. We knew the boat would be covered with snow, and that it must not collapse under the weight. It had to have rounded shapes everywhere. Hence the very compact form, the igloo-shaped superstructures. Next, we wanted a lot of windows to enjoy a maximum amount of light, and also recuperate heat through the greenhouse effect. This works very well, especially when the boat is in the Mediterranean! The interior looks something like a mountain cabin, because the team in charge of furnishing the boat were mountaineers. Michel Franco and his colleagues used their jigsaws to do the interior. As for the choice of materials, we opted for an aluminum hull because the boat had to be as light as possible, and rise up under the pressure of the ice. At the time, I was doing a lot of racing and knew about the latest in winch equipment, etc. So, in terms of deck layout and maneuvering, we wanted a boat easy to handle, with a schooner rig – the idea being that 2 sailors could maneuver the boat and take a reef quite easily. On that score, I think we fulfilled our contract!

Did you ever imagine that the boat would still be on expeditions 25 years later?

Not at all, not a single second! In fact, the boat has had 3 successive lives. We could never have foreseen this. The boat has moved far beyond us. It no longer belongs to us at all.

Today, if you were to build a new “ideal boat,” would the schooner be a source of inspiration?

I’ve worked on other projects for expedition ships with my new partner, Nicolas Berthelot: between 40 and 62 meters. It’s all there in our files. We’ve taken some ideas from Tara, and changed other things, such as the engine room. At the time of Tara’s construction, we didn’t realize how much time the engineers would be spending down there, bent in half.

Are you are ready for Tara 6?

Yes, absolutely! Just choose the size…

 

Interview by Noëlie Pansiot

Beyond the adventure …

When Taranautes welcome visitors on the boat’s deck, they share her story, explain the science and respond to questions from the curious. The same issues often come up: life on board, the schooner’s design but also the crew recruitment process. The Tara adventure makes for dreaming, inspires vocations, and team members are envied. Actually, there is no normal recruitment process for extraordinary expeditions. Team members were hired for their profile, skills, or from encounters.

Children’s questions are often very different from those of their elders. They don’t ask about recruitment or CV.  Rather, they want to know about the crew’s daily life. The youngest are invited to visit the interior of the boat and can hardly wait to discover  the sailors’ cabins. Even if they rave about the photos of the boat locked in the Arctic ice, their questions are down to earth and logistical: How does one make food on board? What does one eat? The sailor in charge of the visit then turns to Marion Lauters or Dominique Limbour, Tara’s excellent cooks. And one or the other stops making lunch for a few minutes to answer the questions. Children will also avidly ask about the coexistence of 14 people for several months in such a small space. Since they themselves spend their days confined in a classroom, they tend to bring up this important point.

A catalyst for unusual characters, the boat welcomes scientists, explorers and artists — individuals who, for the most part, don’t know each other before they board Tara. They come from a variety of professional backgrounds, with very different lifestyles and temperaments. They come together for several weeks or months to work on a boat that is only 36 meters long. They share their cabins, meals and work together all day. Their paths perhaps would never have crossed without Tara.

Nevertheless, on board, some kind of magic happens: team members do their best to live and work together in a friendly atmosphere. This micro-society is organized according to the same principles as on land. Except that everyone is particularly careful to cohabit in harmony. Friendships develop rapidly as the days pass at sea, and during the privileged exchanges of night watches. People find common interests, discover they share the same values, admire the professionalism of their fellow crew members, or rave about their past exploits. Whether diver, cook, scientist, sailor or journalist, the team members become Taranautes and relish the time shared on board. Fleeting moments each person tries to savour every day, despite the fatigue from work or close quarters.

When a public tour of the boat comes to an end, it is not uncommon that a visitor remarks to the guide, “How lucky you are to take part in such an adventure!” Aware of his privilege, the Taranaute nods in agreement, then replies with a big smile, “The Tara adventure is also, and especially, a human adventure.”

Noëlie Pansiot

Related articles:

– The best of science during the Tara Mediterranean expedition.

Tara Mediterranean: the best of life on board and ashore.

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