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04/18/18

Tara in Shanghai: major stopover in a mythical city

Tara departed from Xiamen, continuing her one-month tour of China. A 5-day journey to arrive in Shanghai, one of the …

Tara departed from Xiamen, continuing her one-month tour of China. A 5-day journey to arrive in Shanghai, one of the world’s largest mega-cities. 

As we departed from Xiamen, the sun hailed the schooner by plunging into the China Sea and sending out rays that tinted the clouds pink, like the brushstrokes of a great calligrapher. Two white dolphins even came to complete the show.
Tara traveled 550 miles (1,018 kilometers) to Shanghai |– 5 days of crossing, including one at anchor. That was a funny day, when Tara had to wait off the coast of the city, as if on a parking lot at sea, amidst dozens of cargoes, container ships, trawlers and fishing boats, before she could go up Shanghai’s Huangpu River. Then, as we finally sailed up the river the city’s skyscrapers emerged from the mist.

1.proue_Tara_perle de-orient@Noemie_Olive© Noémie Olive / Tara Expeditions Foundation

 

Shanghai, a mythical city in full swing

Shanghai offers a stunning spectacle: it is one of the most populous cities in the world, with 24 million inhabitants and nearly 1,000 skyscrapers at least 30 stories high. The recent Shanghai Tower, the second tallest building in the world, dominates this “standing city” with its 630 meters.
In the harbor Tara occupies a place of honour, moored in front of the Oriental Pearl Radio and TV Tower with unique architecture composed of several spheres. For many visitors it is a symbol of Shanghai.

Night and day the schooner is rocked by the constant passage of boats. The maritime traffic never stops. Not far away is the Bund, a seaside promenade lined by European-style buildings and some futuristic ones with acid colors reminiscent of the world of Disney.

Tara will host many events involving partners and will continue our educational mission, welcoming Shanghai’s schoolchildren aboard the boat.

 

Noémie Olive

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© Noémie Olive / Tara Expeditions Foundation
04/11/18

China – a new partner for Tara

The Tara Foundation has just established new relations with China, the largest country in the world, in the form of …

The Tara Foundation has just established new relations with China, the largest country in the world, in the form of a partnership with the University of Xiamen. On April 6 at a press conference aboard the schooner Romain Troublé, director of the Tara Foundation, along with Min Han Dai, director of the Science and Technology Department at the University of Xiamen, and scientist Chris Bowler (PSL, CNRS), reaffirmed their vision of the Ocean as a global system and announced their desire to collaborate. The University of Xiamen recently acquired an oceanographic research vessel, the Tan Kah Kee, which could eventually navigate alongside Tara on the same scientific mission to expand the scope of scientific research.

Interview with 2 men who have the same goal: understanding the Ocean to better protect it.

What is this partnership about?

Romain: The Tara Foundation has wanted to collaborate with China for a long time.  When I came to this country with the French President at the beginning of the year, I presented Tara’s proposal: a scientific and educational partnership around the issues of biodiversity and climate. In concrete terms, this would involve an exchange of French and Chinese PhD students and post-doctoral students. For basic research, the details remain to be determined by our research partners, but we will definitely share the protocols already established by the Tara Oceans scientific consortium so they can be implemented at the marine stations of Xiamen University and aboard the research vessel Tan Kah Kee. In China there is already an important microbiobome project to study the world of microbes, especially at sea. Tara could participate in this, and in the longer term, undertake a joint expedition with the Tan Kah Kee. We have many points in common, and points that are complementary. The researchers of Tara Oceans and I are delighted by these perspectives of collaboration which will increase      knowledge of the Ocean.

Min Han Dai: Tara is a boat with many interesting and unique aspects — a sailboat conceived to study the oceans, funded by a French fashion house and other private partners. As for the collaboration, I believe we are on the right track. When Tara arrived with Romain and some of the scientists involved with China, we were able to sweep away the shadows looming over our future partnership. We share this common and global vision for the protection of the oceans, and we’re exploring the possibilities for France and China to work together in this direction.

Les_deux_partenaires_la proue_Tara@Noemie_Olive.jpgMin Han Dai and Romain Troublé on Tara’s prow  © Noémie Olive / Tara Expeditions Foundation

How can the two boats, Tara and Tan Kah Kee, be complementary?

Romain: The Xiamen laboratories are expert at understanding the bio-geochemistry of the oceans, in the analysis of trace metals in particular, essential elements for the ecosystem. Tara alone is not sufficient and it would be great if other boats adopt the protocols, as our Brazilian partners have done.

Min Hai Dai: In order for our data to be comparable, we need to be using the same protocol. While adopting Tara’s method for microbiome sampling, we can rely upon the Tan Kah Kee for geo-trace metal expertise. The data collected by each boat can then be analyzed together.

Romain, why associate with China?

Without becoming naively optimistic, I think the future of the planet depends on China’s responses to environmental issues. For the Tara Foundation, it’s important to accompany this movement, to support research and education. China now has a leading role, and as in any market, if the leader changes, so does the market. The whole world wants to sell things to China. If China changes in the direction proclaimed everywhere, to become the champion of sustainable development, the world will change for the better!

 

Noémie Olive

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© Noémie Olive / Tara Expeditions Foundation
04/05/18

Awareness campaign in Taiwan

After scientific research comes educational outreach. During Tara’s 4-day stopover in Keelung, visits of the schooner were organized for primary …

After scientific research comes educational outreach. During Tara’s 4-day stopover in Keelung, visits of the schooner were organized for primary school children in the morning and the general public in the afternoon.

 

In all, nearly 750 people explored the 36-meter schooner – visiting the spaces devoted to scientific research, the main cabin, kitchen, corridor with the crew’s cabins, and climbing the ladder in the forward hold to emerge on deck.

Taiwan is a special place for Tara – for the diversity of coral reefs surrounding the island, and the warm welcome given to the crew members. Every day, students from the National Taiwan Ocean University (NTOU) and port agents came aboard, loaded with fruit baskets, pineapple cakes, the famous Bubble tea (the local cold tea with tapioca pearls) and even Taiwanese beer!

On the official side, Tara was invited to the Palmes Académiques ceremony, where this year’s Palm was awarded to Ching-Fang Chang, Director of NTOU University. This distinction recognizes people for exceptional work in the field of education. Ching-Fang Chang, who facilitated Tara’s arrival, was honored for 30 years of scientific activity and her commitment to developing and maintaining exchanges between French and Taiwanese students.
 

8.Petit_garcon_durant_visite@Noemie_Olive

© Noémie Olive / Tara Expeditions Foundation

 

Taiwan tackles plastic

Taiwan has been recycling waste since the 1990s. Ming-Jay Ho, researcher at Academia Sinica explains: “In terms of education, it starts in primary school. If you don’t put trash in the proper container, garbage collectors will not pick it up. Taiwan is a small island and to conserve our resources, we must become more eco-oriented.”

Paradoxically, individual packaging is omnipresent: each orange, flower, or cake is wrapped in plastic. The government nevertheless continues its actions to fight against pollution and in particular, pollution of the oceans. Starting in 2019, fast-food chains and grocery stores will be banned from distributing plastic straws, with a complete ban in 2030 including plastic cups and plates.

Noémie Olive

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© Noémie Olive / Tara Expeditions Foundation
03/27/18

Tara studying Taiwan’s biodiversity

For 4 days Tara successfully continued scientific research, then weighed anchor and left behind Orchid Island and Green Island, off …

For 4 days Tara successfully continued scientific research, then weighed anchor and left behind Orchid Island and Green Island, off the eastern coast of Taiwan.

Tara Pacific’s 3 target species were found and collected on site. According to Emilie Boissin, scientific coordinator of this mission (CRIOBE), “these sites are interesting because they represent the northern boundary of the distribution area for these tropical species”.

Porites lobata (commonly known as lobe coral), Millepora platyphylla (plate fire coral) and Pocillopora meandrina (cauliflower coral) survive in these latitudes thanks to the Kuroshio, a warm north-flowing current, the world’s strongest after the Gulf stream.

Vianney Denis, a French researcher based in Taiwan, told us that a Japanese team traveled from Taiwan to Japan by kayak, following the current flow, at an average speed of 1.5 knots (a little less than 3 km/h).
Plankton and fish samples will be carefully stored aboard the schooner until the mission’s end and Tara’s return to Lorient, in October 2018. In contrast, the coral samples will probably be unloaded in Taiwan, since coral is a protected species. After completion of customs export formalities, they’ll be shipped by plane to our partner laboratories.

 

3.Accueil_dejeuner_delicieux_Hueling@Noemie_Olive(1)
© Noémie Olive / Tara Expeditions Fondation

 

Monday, March 26, a major clean-up day!

Sailors scrubbed the deck, walkways, cabins and corridors. Scientists disinfected all sample bottles to prevent any collected plankton from proliferating aboard Tara! They left vials and pipes in perfect condition for the next scientific team.

On Monday evening the schooner set sail for Keelung where crew members will sport their agnès b. cardigans to greet Tara’s visitors. A welcome ceremony will take place upon arrival in the port of Keelung, and the crew will enjoy Taiwanese kindness and hospitality once again, just one year after Tara’s first stopover here.

Noémie Olive

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© Noémie Olive / Tara Expeditions Foundation
03/23/18

Video: Hong Kong: coral and the city

Tara spent nearly 10 days in Hong Kong. A highly urbanized and densely populated environment, the archipelago faces a major …

Tara spent nearly 10 days in Hong Kong. A highly urbanized and densely populated environment, the archipelago faces a major challenge: the management of its waste. Unfortunately, plastics, styrofoam and wastewater end up too often in the sea and threaten to disrupt the marine ecosystem. The Taranauts took advantage of their stopover to participate in a beach cleanup operation organized by the French community, before going to take the pulse of Hong Kong’s coral further east, at Crescent Island.

© Agathe Roullin / Tara Expeditions Foundation
© Drone images : François Aurat / Tara Expeditions Foundation

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© François Aurat / Tara Expeditions Foundation
03/20/18

Back to science and Taiwan

After collecting coral samples in Hong Kong, Tara headed out to sea for Taiwan, with science on the agenda, and …

After collecting coral samples in Hong Kong, Tara headed out to sea for Taiwan, with science on the agenda, and a relay of crew members.

Everyone was smiling as we dropped anchor. Finally, they would be able to dive in this deserted bay of Crescent Island, northeast of Hong Kong. Since Indonesia, scientists on board were unable to collect even the smallest bit of coral for lack of authorization. But in the Hong Kong archipelago, a few miles from the city and its gigantic buildings, research finally could begin again.

After Crescent Island, Tara headed to a second site, also chosen by the University of Hong scientists sailing aboard Tara on this short leg. Lamma Island, west of the city, is much less green than Crescent. Large orange rocks adorn the cliff that frames the schooner. Open to the sea, this area is much more agitated than the first. After the morning sampling, Tara made a last detour to Hong Kong to drop off the University of Hong Kong scientists before heading north to Taiwan.

 

5.Tara quitte HK pour aller echantillonner dans l archipel@Agathe_RoullinTara and the crew left Hong Kong in order to go sampling coral in the archipelago – © Agathe Roullin / Tara Expeditions Foundation

 

Back to Keelung

Facing headwinds during the entire crossing, it took us 2 and a half days to reach Kaohsiung on the island’s southwest side. This first stopover will be short: It’s here that some crew members disembark and new ones come aboard: a new first mate, a cook, on-board correspondent and 5 scientists. The scientific program in Taiwan will be considerable. 3 sampling sites are planned along the east coast — Kenting, Orchid and Green Islands — before arriving in Keelung around March 27th. Taranauts are looking forward to a reunion there. Less than a year ago, in May 2017 the schooner moored at Keelung’s dock for a week-long stopover and meeting with the Taiwanese.

 Agathe Roullin

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© François Aurat / Tara Expeditions Foundation
03/15/18

Young Chinese researchers aboard Tara

In Sanya, 2 young Chinese researchers came aboard Tara to participate in the sampling sessions planned for the southern part …

In Sanya, 2 young Chinese researchers came aboard Tara to participate in the sampling sessions planned for the southern part of Hainan Island. Unfortunately neither the newcomers nor the Taranauts could go diving, because the necessary permits did not reach the Sanya authorities in time. But even without collecting samples, the researchers’ presence on board was an opportunity to discuss many things and lay the foundations for future cooperation.

Having received research permits from the Chinese authorities in Beijing, the Taranauts hoped that the participation of local researchers would facilitate getting local authorizations. But the arrival of the 2 Chinese scientists from the China Coral Reef Research Center was not enough to speed up the process of obtaining the regional permits necessary for sampling around the island of Hainan.

Huang Xueyong, senior lecturer, and Chen Biao, PhD. student in bio-geography, were appointed by Kefu Yu Yu from Guangxi Local University to assist the Tara Foundation and Captain Samuel Audrain with administrative procedures, and also to work with the Tara scientists during dives. Although these missions could not be fulfilled, the 2 young men will nonetheless have an excellent memory of their time aboard the schooner.

Huang: “This is my first time on a boat like Tara. In China we have oceanographic vessels, but they are much smaller and don’t have sails! We were very well-received aboard Tara, and we had a lot of discussions with the scientists. I learned about what everyone does, their specialties. I learned a lot of things and got lots of ideas!”

Chen: “I immediately felt at home. Everyone was very friendly, and Marion’s cooking is excellent! Maybe even better than at home. If Tara needs us again, we would come back without any hesitation! ”
12.Photo_carambar_enfants@Agathe_Roullin Huang Xueyong et Chen Biao à bord de Tara avec l’équipage © Agathe Roullin / Tara Expeditions Foundation

 

Why did you choose to do research?

Chen : “I grew up near the water and I love the ocean. It’s essential to our equilibrium and our happiness, and the ocean fills our plates. Not everyone is familiar with the ocean, but we all need it. That’s why we must educate people through science, to protect our ocean. In recent years, the Chinese government has really been trying to pay attention, especially with the creation of protected areas. But all this takes time.”

Huang : “Only one of them, Sanya Bay. We go diving there to study the coral ecosystem. It’s difficult to assess the health of the corals there because of the dense traffic: It’s an area open to the sea, with many yachts and fishing boats passing through. Inevitably the coral is affected by all this activity. Moreover, in summer it’s extremely hot here. The coral can not necessarily withstand these climatic variations and is starting to turn white.”

Have you ever visited the 3 sites you chose here for the Tara Pacific mission?

Chen : ” Seulement le premier, dans la baie de Sanya. On y a plongé pour étudier l’écosystème corallien. C’est difficile d’évaluer l’état de santé des coraux là-bas, car il y a beaucoup de passage : c’est une zone ouverte sur la mer, par laquelle transitent de nombreux bateaux de plaisance et de pêche… Mais forcément, le corail se trouve impacté par cette activité. De plus, en été, il fait trop chaud ici. Le corail ne peut pas forcément encaisser ces variations climatiques et commence à blanchir. ”

And on the question of permits?

Chen : “There were administrative errors, some false leads. The targeted sites were in military areas, which complicated the situation because it also required the authorization of the army. We managed to get the national license, but we ran out of time to obtain the go-ahead at the local level. If Tara could have stayed a little longer, I’m sure we’d finally have had some good news. ”

Propos recueillis par Agathe Roullin

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© Agathe Roullin / Tara Expeditions Foundation
03/14/18

Stopover in Hong Kong, the “Asian New York”

Tara is currently in Hong Kong for 10 days as part of the Tara Pacific expedition. The objective of this …

Tara is currently in Hong Kong for 10 days as part of the Tara Pacific expedition. The objective of this stopover is to meet the people of this dynamic port city, then do some scientific dives to study the corals of the archipelago.

After leaving Sanya and the Chinese « Riviera », Tara continued her route north in the direction of Hong Kong. A former British colony retroceded to China in 1997, Hong Kong is a « special administrative region » which includes a mainland (Kowloon) and the archipelago facing it. Its 7.3 million inhabitants have their own political, legislative, legal, economic and financial systems, different from those of the Chinese, so the Taranauts had to exchange their Chinese yuan for Hong Kong dollars.

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0044.JPGTara moored in front of the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, ready to welcome visits onboard – © Agathe Roullin / Tara Expeditions Foundation

 

In the city center surrounded by a multitude of buildings competing to reach the sky, the schooner is organizing visits aboard for the people of Hong Kong. This is the very first time Tara has stopped here. A city/region encircled by the sea, Hong Kong is an essential port of call for the Tara Pacific expedition: «We could not be in Asia without stopping in Hong Kong» says Romain Troublé, executive director of the Tara Expeditions Foundation. «Historically, this is an important maritime center. But it’s also an ultra-urbanized territory, where the coral is very exposed to the stress of pollution. It’s therefore very interesting for us to see how the reefs behave and adapt to this pollution».

In addition to meeting the public, the Taranauts will make the most of this visit to Hong Kong by organizing dives to collect samples in the archipelago with the collaboration of 4 scientists from the University of Hong Kong. Afterwards, the schooner will continue her route to Taiwan.

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© Agathe Roullin / Tara Expeditions Foundation
02/26/18

Tara arrived in China!

Tara set sail heading north for China: four days marked by a minor scare off the coast of Vietnam. Then …

Tara set sail heading north for China: four days marked by a minor scare off the coast of Vietnam. Then the schooner and her crew reached Sanya, on the southern end of Hainan Island.

Imposing silhouettes of buildings and giant hotel complexes are on the horizon. A curious ballet of yachts, monohulls and fishing boats surround Tara. Sanya, a popular Chinese beach resort is celebrating the New Year. At night the decor is even more spectacular: the facades of the buildings are lit up with undulating dolphins and jellyfish, blinking reindeer, palm trees and messages in Mandarin. On deck, the Taranauts enjoy the cool evening.

The schooner took her time to reach Hainan Island. Leaving Nha Trang on February 15, she avoided the end of a storm that came up from the Philippines to Vietnam. The sails were unfurled again and the scientists happy to clear their minds. We were still waiting for the green light from Beijing to resume diving and sampling in the country’s waters, with 2 Chinese researchers aboard.

 
Vue_avant_Tara_sous_voiles@Agathe_RoullinBetween Nha Trang and Sanya, Tara under full sail again © Agathe Roullin / Fondation Tara Expéditions.

Doubt in the China Sea

Tara was calmly sailing in the China Sea the day before arrival in Sanya, when suddenly our route was disrupted. It was already dark on Sunday, February 18 when, during his night watch, dive master/sailor David Monmarché woke up the captain in his bunk. A boat had suddenly changed course and was fast approaching Tara for no apparent reason. Soon other points appeared on the radar to the west of the first. Fishing boats hauling up their nets, or ill-intentioned ships? Samuel Audrain was in doubt and immediately launched the procedure established beforehand: start the engine, change course, drop the sails, and notify the Tara Foundation management. Sleepers woke up. Others put aside their computers or a game of tarot. The entire crew was now standing silently on deck, while Tara headed east. Claimed by several countries — including China, Vietnam and the Philippines — the South China Sea is a particular area where boats must remain cautious. The ship whose behaviour worried our captain sailed away. Fishermen, no doubt. The Taranauts relaxed. Marion Lauters went around the crew with a bowl of M&Ms. The schooner could now head back to Sanya.

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© Agathe Roullin / Tara Expeditions Foundation
02/14/18

STRONG WINDS FOR TARA ON THE WAY TO VIETNAM

Tara arrived in Vietnam on Wednesday, February 7th, but unfortunately did not receive a sampling permit from the Vietnamese government. …

Tara arrived in Vietnam on Wednesday, February 7th, but unfortunately did not receive a sampling permit from the Vietnamese government. The China Sea is a complex geo-strategic region which makes it very difficult for the expedition at present. Disappointed at not being able to resume their underwater explorations, the crew had some consolation thanks to optimal sailing conditions between Pangatalan and Nha Trang in the China Sea. Driven by a north-north-east wind, the schooner raced towards Vietnam all sails unfurled.

 

The Taranauts who set foot on the concrete dock of Nha Trang port were feeling happy. The seaside resort is disfigured by huge hotel complexes catering to mass tourism, and it certainly doesn’t have the charm of the pristine islands of the Palawan archipelago. But the crew didn’t care. This time the Pacific had offered them a totally new gift: a strong wind – between 25 and 35 knots – for a long, starboard tack, which allowed them to reach Vietnam in just 3 and a half days. “These were the ideal conditions for Tara”, explains Nicolas Bin, first mate. “We hoisted almost all the sails. The wind was blowing so hard we had to reduce the main and the foresail. One night I even had to wake up Sam the captain, to take a reef up front. The wind was too powerful, it was pulling too hard on the rigging”. But no doubt about it, “This was the most wonderful sailing I’ve experienced, along with the one between Japan and Taiwan. To see the boat moving at full speed – 140 tonnes launched at 10 knots – is really impressive”.

 

4_Explications_manoeuvre_Sam_Audrain_et_Nico_Bin@Noelie_PansiotDiscussion between sailors before hoisting the mainsail – © Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation

 

“We finally got to experience Tara with lots of wind in her sails!”

The scientists aboard Tara are not necessarily seasoned sailors. But when we left the small island of Pangatalan, everyone was excited. Some people already guessed that the waves and pitching would get the better of their stomachs since Tara, with her rounded hull, is a “roller”. “We finally got to experience Tara with lots of wind in her sails!”

Gaëlle Quéré, CNRS-CRIOBE postdoctoral researcher, was delighted: “We were able to participate in the maneuvers and raise the sails. I loved it.” Guillaume Iwankow, head of scientific diving at CRIOBE, had suffered from the vagaries of the wind during his previous 5 voyages. “Sailing during night watch, without a sound, with the stars just for myself – It’s a childhood dream, moments I will remember forever.”

 

In Vietnam without a permit

Strong wind in the sails brought some consolation to the frustrated scientists. As in Indonesia and the Philippines, they just found out they won’t get the necessary authorizations to take samples in Vietnamese waters.
Docked for several days, the team is trying to stay busy. Writing articles, meeting with the Oceanographic Institute of Nha Trang, and a little tourism. The time seems long, but Guillaume Iwankow puts things into perspective: “We could have had neither science nor wind!” Let’s hope this series of disappointments doesn’t last. China is the next stop on Tara’s route.

Agathe Roullin

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© Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation

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