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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
02/09/18

Video: Presidential interview in Palau

While Tara was anchored in Koror Bay, the Taranauts received a visit from Mr. Tommy Remengesau, President of the Republic …

While Tara was anchored in Koror Bay, the Taranauts received a visit from Mr. Tommy Remengesau, President of the Republic of Palau and a friend of the Tara Expeditions Foundation. After this meeting, the President invited Tara’s chief engineer, Daniel Cron and his camera to his office. Discover the President’s message and behind-the-scenes interview.

 

© Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation

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© Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation
02/07/18

Tara in China, Spring, 2018: Participating in scientific and environmental challenges

Starting at the end of February, Tara will be making ports of call in China over a period of 2 …

Starting at the end of February, Tara will be making ports of call in China over a period of 2 months. This will be a particularly important part of the Tara Pacific expedition, involving scientific, educational and political issues. Interview with Romain Troublé, executive director of the Tara Expeditions Foundation:

Why did the Tara Expeditions Foundation accompany President Macron on his first official trip to China?

This was the first time that the Foundation had the opportunity to be part of a presidential delegation. The French ambassador to China, with whom we’ve been working for a long time, judged that we had our place there, in view of Tara’s imminent visit.

Beyond this event, we’ve been working with China and have been connected with Chinese universities for some time now. This visit was therefore a logical continuation of our scientific cooperation.

The goal was also to strengthen the image of the Tara Foundation in China. Clearly our participation in this trip will influence the success of Tara’s presence in China.

The environment and the climate were also at the center of discussions, crucial topics for the Foundation. In particular, this trip was the opportunity to visit the Beijing Space Center and see the satellite CFOSAT (China-France Oceanography satellite) which will be responsible for studying the physical characteristics of the Ocean’s surface starting this year.

 
Romain Troublé (directeur général de la Fondation Tara Expeditions) lors de la conférence FACTO, Miami Romain Troublé, Directeur Général de la Fondation Tara Expéditions © Maeva Bardy – Tara Expeditions Foundation

 

How can China be an important partner for the Tara Foundation’s mission?

For the last 2 years, China has become the leader in climate issues, along with France. It’s very interesting and important to cooperate with China on a scientific level, to exchange know-how and information. Close ties should therefore be developed with this country which has become a key partner and is getting stronger on a scientific level.

China is aware of its responsibilities in terms of waste, pollution and even management of resources. We must not be naïve: China is showing all the signs of a country willing to meet challenges and assume its responsibilities.

 

What will be Tara’s main objectives during her 2-month stay in China?

Our presence in China will be organized into several stopovers, including Sanya, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Xiamen, each lasting between one and 2 weeks. During these stopovers the focus will be on educating young people — a major issue in China. Many visits of school children are being planned, in addition to the special events organized to disseminate the Foundation’s work.

On the scientific side, several conferences will be given by researchers from the Tara Oceans consortium to present their excellent work. More generally, we are already collaborating with researchers from the universities of Xiamen, Hong Kong and Guangxi. Our ambition is to anchor these collaborations in the long term.

As for further sampling, the corals around Hainan Island are among the most northwesternly in the Pacific Ocean. Since Tara is studying corals in the greatest variety of environments, it’s important to make a stopover there.

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02/02/18

Video: Studying coral adaptation to climate change

A team of researchers from the Monaco Scientific Center, the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis and the University of Liège …

A team of researchers from the Monaco Scientific Center, the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis and the University of Liège carried out a specific 10-day mission aboard Tara, in the state of Koror, Palau. The objective: to study the adaptation of corals to climate change, in a country still protected from human impact. Scientists selected Palau in order to study corals protected from anthropogenic effects and thus observe the consequences of global environmental changes on coral reefs. A true open-air laboratory, the small islands of Palau border naturally acidified underwater sites which correspond to the estimates of ocean acidification in 2100. Experience this mission in video!

© Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation

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© Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation
01/26/18

Hope for Philippine collaboration in Tara’s scientific program

Sailors and scientists are heading to the Philippines aboard Tara, ready to continue their work in the waters of the …

Sailors and scientists are heading to the Philippines aboard Tara, ready to continue their work in the waters of the Philippine archipelago. Meanwhile, the Tara Expeditions Foundation is waiting for an essential element for this mission: the Philippine government’s authorization to pursue Tara Pacific’s scientific work, the global study of Pacific coral reefs conducted in cooperation with the 30 countries already visited.

 

For Romain Troublé, executive director of the Tara Foundation, the Philippine government’s decision is important for science, but also for raising awareness. He explains: “The Tara Pacific research aims to advance understanding of the impact of climate change on the reefs. Our sole ambition is to advance fundamental research in order to understand the intimate processes of coral bleaching. 2018 has been designated “International Year of Coral Reefs” due to the serious dangers threatening the future of reef biodiversity and the people who depend on it”, he says.

The Tara Foundation has therefore invited the Philippine government to collaborate with them and benefit from international scientific expertise by including the Philippine reefs in this unprecedented study of the Pacific Ocean. “Whenever possible, Tara welcomes aboard researchers from the country where we’re collecting our samples”.

 

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© Tara Expeditions Foundation

 

Patience and confidence are in order. “We know that the authorization process is complex, and we have been working on it for several months with the French Embassy. We sincerely hope that the Philippines will respond favorably to this ambitious study program and will dispatch a scientist from the Marine Science Institute of the University of the Philippines aboard the schooner”.

Thus the Tara Expeditions Foundation is proposing to include the Philippine scientific community in a research program of excellence, as evidenced by the recent results published in Nature Communications on January 25, 2018, revealing 110 million new genes from the marine world, half of which have functions that are still totally unknown.

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© Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation
12/29/17

Video: Christmas in the Pacific

On December 25th the Taranauts all met on deck at 9am. Under the Christmas tree, each of the 15 pairs …

On December 25th the Taranauts all met on deck at 9am. Under the Christmas tree, each of the 15 pairs of flip-flops received a present.
In the middle of Helen Reef lagoon, far from their families, the crew shared a festive moment together. See the photos of their gift unwrapping.
 

© Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation

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© Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation
12/26/17

Indonesia: the Ocean is choking with plastic

A  4-day technical stopover in the Indonesian province of Sorong was a sobering moment for the Taranauts. As soon as …

A  4-day technical stopover in the Indonesian province of Sorong was a sobering moment for the Taranauts. As soon as we disembarked, we were shocked by the extent of the pollution. A city of more than 200 000 inhabitants, Sorong is buried under plastic waste — unfortunately not an exception in Indonesia, the largest archipelago in the world.

 

Water ballet of plastic

Sandbanks bordering the city are overflowing with detritus: disposable objects, oil cans, flipflops, cigarette lighters. The owners of many small shops lined up along the road dump their trash bins directly onto the sandbanks. People just stretch out their arms to get rid of what they no longer want. Hundreds of plastic bottles float down the open channels dug near houses to evacuate sewage. Like 80% of the waste at sea, these bottles were thrown on the ground, then follow the flow of water, ending up in the ocean. Every year between 10 and 20 million tons of waste are dumped in the oceans, 80% of which are plastics.*

 

The second largest polluter in terms of plastic

According to a report published in the Journal of Science (in 2015), the Indonesian archipelago is the second largest polluter in terms of plastic, just after China. Located in the heart of the famous Coral Triangle, the Indonesian maritime territory is home to the highest level of biodiversity in the world. But for how much longer?

Today, increasing numbers of tourists leave Sorong by ferry to reach Waisai, gateway to Raja Ampat, a site famous for scuba diving. From there, visitors take small boats to reach the rental cottages bordering turquoise water on the island of Kri or Gam. But a closer look shows that these pretty beaches lined with sheds on stilts are also littered with objects that the locals don’t bother to pick up.

 

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The scientific team appalled by the accumulation of so much waste in the ocean – © Eric Röttinger / Kahi Kai
Despite the status of Raja Ampat National Park, the situation underwater is equally disturbing: Petroleum products and marine organisms come together daily in a place that was, until recently, a true underwater paradise.

Indonesia faces a problem of massive pollution, and finally the government is recognizing it. At one of the recent global summits on the Ocean, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for maritime affairs announced a plan to reduce marine pollution by 70% in the next 8 years. But in many islands of the archipelago, garbage collection is still just an idea.

 

Levers to regulate production?

Who should be blamed for the situation — consumers, the Indonesian government, the oil industry? What can be done to reverse the trend? In a country where incomes can be quite low, sales of plastic products in individual doses are very successful. The entire population must be made aware of the problem. At the same time, the public authorities must play their role by providing an efficient garbage collection and recycling service.
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Accumulation of all kinds of waste – © Eric Röttinger / Kahi Kai

The oil industry and its lobby

When the question of responsibility is considered on a global scale, some experts blame the oil industry and its lobby. This is the case of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) whose recent report states that plastic manufacturers were aware of the problems caused by their products as early as the 1970s. But a part of the plastic industry continues to deny the facts, fighting regulations and undermining proposed solutions. Even worse, they put the blame on consumers. As for manufacturers, their involvement is limited to the resin granules made from plastic waste and doesn’t take into account the end-of-life of plastic products.

 

For an international treaty

At the Tara Expeditions Foundation, through our actions carried out since 2003, we strive to highlight the scientific facts, the questions and sometimes even the doubts so necessary to challenge accepted ideas. Sharing this mindset means bringing concrete elements to discussions with citizens, entrepreneurs and policy makers.

Today we support the implementation of an international treaty that would reduce this plastic crisis. It seems to us essential to constrain and regulate the impact of plastic throughout the life cycle of products, from their production to the pollution of our oceans.

Noëlie Pansiot

* https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms15611

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© Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation
12/14/17

Change of destination: Tara will not go to Indonesia

An unusual circumstance: the schooner must change route. On board, the Captain downloads new nautical charts thanks to the satellite …

An unusual circumstance: the schooner must change route. On board, the Captain downloads new nautical charts thanks to the satellite connection. On land, the logistics team is modifying the dates and the port of entry for the next team of scientists to come aboard.  The reason for this last minute change? The Indonesian government has refused us permission to do sampling in its territorial waters. Explanation:

For months, the Tara Expeditions Foundation and its team have spent a huge amount of time and energy organizing this major chapter of contemporary exploration across the Pacific Ocean: Tracing a coherent  itinerary for sampling different species of corals. Inquiring about the safety of the crew on a route sometimes subject to piracy. Setting up adequate logistics to accommodate a rotation of 70 scientists and 6 crew members constantly. Contacting representatives of 30 countries to present the project. Requesting permission to collect samples. There’s no end to this list.

 

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© Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation

 

Sometimes, despite all their efforts to organize & anticipate, the land-sea team must revise their plans. This is the case today, following the Indonesian government’s refusal to allow sampling. Romain Troublé, executive director of the Tara Expeditions Foundation, reacted to the decision: “It’s really unfortunate, especially since the challenges facing the coral reefs of Indonesia are major. It’s highly regrettable that  Indonesia’s ambition, as host of the “Our Ocean 2018″ Conference, is not followed up with specific actions, such as participating in an unprecedented pan-Pacific research program like Tara Pacific”. After 14 years of expeditions, only 2% of solicited countries refused the schooner entry into their maritime territory.

So, Tara will not go to the Maluku archipelago as planned. The ability to adapt is undeniably one of the major strengths of the project. The schooner will still make a very brief stop in Indonesia to welcome its new scientific team — in  Sorong, a port city in eastern Indonesia. Then Tara will leave the country immediately, headed for Palau where she is expected. 6 archipelagos comprised of 300 islets and 26 islands, the Republic of Palau in Micronesia, will be a vast area of ​​exploration for the Taranauts. A stopover will be hosted by the President of Palau, one of the first heads-of-state to join Tara in giving a voice to the Ocean at the COP21   by signing the “Because the Ocean” declaration.

 

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© Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation

 

This change of  itinerary will first take the crew to some tiny, remote islands, very rarely studied: Hatohobei, Sonosol, Pulo Anna.

Sampling around Koror, the most populated island of Palau, will take place from  January 4 – 9, 2018. Another specific mission conducted by the team from Monaco will happen later, from January 11- 20. After exploring and sampling in the famous Coral Triangle, in the heart of these “small islands” (Micronesia), the schooner will make a final stop in the port of Koror, from January 20 – 22, 2018,  before heading for the Philippines.

 

Noëlie Pansiot

 

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© Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expedition Foundation
11/28/17

Tara exploring an unknown biodiversity in Papua New Guinea

Six researchers constitute the new scientific team aboard Tara on a leg called “Biodiversity and Interactions”. All hope to discover …

Six researchers constitute the new scientific team aboard Tara on a leg called “Biodiversity and Interactions”. All hope to discover new species during repeated underwater explorations in 4 major regions of Kimbe Bay (Papua New Guinea). Some of the scientists hope to reveal the secrets of chemical interactions between species; others would like to discover new molecules useful in human health. Whatever their specialty, they are already busy under water but also on board, in front of a lab bench or a gene sequencer.

Scientific director of this new leg and marine biologist at CRIOBE, Emilie Boissin has been on board for several weeks. She’s the only one remaining from the former team. Before the new scientific members even set foot on deck, Emilie described the purpose of this mission which is slightly different from other legs of Tara Pacific: « We are sailing in the Coral Triangle, extremely rich in marine biodiversity. Probably many of the species here are still unknown. We will inventory the little-studied groups such as hydrozoans, brittle stars and sponges. We’ll also try to genetically identify the coral species in the laboratory on board, because a simple morphological observation is often not enough. We hope to obtain genetic confirmations in real time, using a small DNA sequencing device called MinION ».

 

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Beautiful crinoids on a sponge - © Jonathan Lancelot / Fondation Tara Expéditions

 

At the introductory meeting that opened this new scientific chapter, Emilie pointed out the exploration zones on a map including Kimbe, Kapepa and Restorf Islands. Everyone then discussed the reasons for their presence on the schooner. Julie Poulain, engineer at the Genoscope and a “regular” aboard Tara, piqued the curiosity of Taranauts by unveiling the famous DNA sequencer: “Smaller than a smart phone!”

Bernard Banaigs, researcher at INSERM, immediately added some humor: « You’re lucky to have 2 chemists aboard Tara, Olivier and myself, 2 barbarians. We’ll first focus on the target species Millepora platyphylla by studying the competition that exists with other corals. Observations show that Millepora platyphylla protects itself quite well from competitors for space. We want to understand the influence of its neighbors on the defense molecules produced by this species. In the marine environment, an intense chemical warfare is going on at all times. To fight against competitors, predators or colonizers, Millepora releases a whole bunch of molecules to protect themselves, creating a chemical shield of sorts! We will try to understand if these defense molecules could be interesting for human health, plant protection or anti-fouling ».

 

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Small green and pink ascidia attached to a sponge – © Jonathan Lancelot / Fondation Tara Expéditions
To date, only 10% of marine biodiversity has been catalogued of all species combined: 200,000 species out of a total estimated at 2,210,000*. By looking more closely at only the cnidarian group which includes corals, hydrozoans and jellyfish, 9,795 species have been catalogued, but no global estimate has been made for cnidarians. The oceans have not finished revealing their riches to contemporary explorers.

Emilie Boissin says the Taranauts will have to open their eyes and pay attention to each form of life — « since even what might look like a known species at first sight, may not be one ».

Noëlie Pansiot

 

*Brett R. Scheffers, et al. (2012), What we know and don’t know about Earth’s missing biodiversity, Trends in Ecology & Evolution.

© Jonathan Lancelot / Tara Expeditions Foundation
11/22/17

Welcome back onboard correspondent, Noëlie Pansiot

After 39 hours traveling from Paris to Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea, the popular expression “You have to earn it” …

After 39 hours traveling from Paris to Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea, the popular expression “You have to earn it” makes sense. Samuel Audrain, incoming captain, Marion Lauters, sailor/cook, and Daniel Cron, deck officer, will no doubt agree. The 4 of us have just crossed the globe by plane to relay disembarking teammates. Here’s the story of my trip.

 
After a somewhat tumultuous departure on Friday at 18:30, the evening of a soccer match that made the north of Paris as congested as a Cairo crossroads in daytime, I boarded a flight from Paris to Dubai. After settling in on the first plane, a Airbus A380, I take the full measure of the journey that awaits me: 4 flights and nearly 15,000 km to go. I’m already thinking about the next 3 months of mission to discover the famous Coral Triangle, the epicenter of marine biodiversity on the planet. According to some scientists, it was here that everything may have started. Corals most likely spread to the rest of the planet from this place.

The list of potential topics to deal with in writing or video runs in my head. The first that comes to my mind is largely inspired by the number of single-use disposables on the plane. I think of the figures that will appear in a future article dedicated to plastic pollution. Even though I hold out my cup for a refill, the stewardesses systematically hand me a new cup, already full. And when, driven by my ecological instinct, I ask about recycling, they answer with a surprised look and a negative nod of the head.

 

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Noëlie Pansiot, correspondante de bord, fera de nouveau partie de l’équipage jusqu’aux Philippines - © Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions

 

Paris – Dubai – Brisbane – Port Moresby – Kimbe Bay. Three planes later and X plastic cups in the trash, I’m at the exit of the international airport of Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea. It’s humid and hot and I’m smiling as I walk towards the domestic terminal for a last flight. Direction Kimbe Bay, in the province of New Britain, located on the largest island in the Bismarck Archipelago. This large bay is among the major sites of the Coral Triangle and counts 60% of the species present in the Indo-Pacific zone.

The 4th plane, operated by the only local airline, has only 36 seats. I sit next to a porthole thinking I’ll enjoy the view at takeoff. I scrutinize the interior of the old plane, which seems to have already exceeded its quota of flying hours. But sleepiness has the best of my worries.

An hour later, a hand on my shoulder wakes me gently from sleep. My neighbor explains: “We have to change aircraft. This one has a technical problem.” Our plane hasn’t moved a centimeter!

 
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Kimbe Bay, lieu de destination de notre correspondante de bord, Noëlie, qui embarque à bord de Tara pour 3 mois - © Noëlie Pansiot / Fondation Tara Expéditions

 

I gather my belongings and head for plane number 4b. Regina, 50 years old, sits down next to me and confesses, “I prayed to God to change planes. He answered me!” I thank her. To have come all this way and see nothing of the Papuan territory would have been rather disappointing. We continue talking and the charming teacher explains that we’re not very far from Hoskins airport: “When we fly over a large stretch of ​​oil palms, that means we’ve arrived.

Outside my porthole, rows of palm trees have replaced a thick forest and we land safely. Paris is only an old memory. In a couple of hours the 2 masts of the schooner will stand before me, in a bay at the end of the world. I’ll find almost the same crew that I left a little over 4 months ago in Fiji. But before that, I’ll take a nap.

 

Noëlie Pansiot

 

 

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