Interview with Jacques Gamblin: “Research with Tara is a great thriller!”

© Millie Mannering / Fondation Tara Expéditions

A theatre artist, he is also a seafarer. Jacques Gamblin is an author, actor and sailor. His involvement with Tara started when he recorded the narration for “Tara, the Coral Odyssey”, the first documentary on the Tara Pacific expedition. A few nautical miles later, he talks about his voyage aboard the schooner, between the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean, during the summer of 2018.

What motivated you to lend your voice to the film “Tara, the Coral Odyssey”?

It made sense for me to participate in my own way in this adventure. Research, science and the oceans. This knowledge is still in its infancy and yet it is more than fundamental. This boat made available to researchers is an incredible tool.

What does the Tara Foundation and their expeditions mean for you?

Much more now than before this trip, of course.
Something unique in the world — a great idea. Any exploration generates advances in knowledge and science.
We see it from too far away, but it’s very concrete. Get the films from the Tara Oceans expedition. It’s crazy what you see. We understand so much and yet we are constantly surprised by what we see. Research with Tara is like a thriller! All these microscopic creatures (a pail of seawater can hold up to 100,000 species) that account for 92% of the ocean’s biomass and allow us to breathe because they release oxygen.

You accompanied Tara and her team from Panama to New York. What did you see and learn?

This immersion let me understand with my eyes and directly experience the sampling process. Once analyzed, the samples will be a memory that will serve humanity for hundreds of years. During the voyage I saw how scientists collect plankton using nets with very fine mesh. The samples are then saved in bottles at very low temperatures. When Tara returned to Lorient, this treasure was shipped to laboratories in France and then dispatched worldwide to partner laboratories.

How was your life on board?

I had never made such a long journey.
We were 10 people on board. Tasks were shared by rotation, as were the night watches. I love the boat and am a sailor myself, but of course I learned a lot. I never liked learning with books, so this voyage was great for me. Martin Hertau, the captain and the sailors around him are very skillful. I admired them. It’s amazing when passion and skill are combined. It really moves me. Besides being expert in their field, the Taranauts know how to transmit their know-how and let you take initiatives.

Enregistrement Archipel des Rois Gamblin © de Parscau 4
Recording of  “Tara, the Coral Odyssey” with Jacques Gamblin © Pierre de Parscau / Fondation Tara Expéditions

Was a particular moment on board – or a place –  more striking than the others?

First of all, passing through the Panama Canal. It’s enormous! Impressive. Thousands of cargo ships passing every year, going up, down, pushed, pulled by those small tractor-locomotives on rails. It seems like this technique hasn’t changed since the creation of the Canal.
Then the open sea. The great liquid desert for more than two weeks. The big brain- washing, there in the middle of nothing, or rather the « big everything ».  Sensations are so strong, we know we can’t talk about it, there are no words for it.  Then the hurricane Florence overhead, further north. We let her pass — it’s better that way!
Then the arrival in New York. The shock, the violence of the shock. From the wide horizon to the tallest skyscrapers. A strange taste of paradox.

We know your love of the sea and sailing, especially through your friendship with the navigator Thomas Coville, whom you evoke in your last play. What makes you so close to the sea and sailors?

I was born in Granville, a seaside resort and fishing town. My uncle was a fisherman and my cousin, too. I learned to sail in high school. Life rhythmed by the tides etc. I was born « somewhere » as Maxime Le Forestier sang, and for me too, that somewhere left its mark. The sea is indispensable to me, otherwise I suffocate!

We know about your commitment to defending the environment, also shown by your involvement in this film. What does the resignation of Nicolas Hulot, Minister of Ecological Transition mean to you?

It’s unfortunate we have to take to the streets to « help » politicians and industrialists make radical decisions that should have been imposed decades ago.
To govern is to foresee. When will we plan ahead?
How can one look in the mirror each morning and still continue with a system that’s been hitting a wall for so long, creating so many inequalities that are only increasing, because of disrespect towards planet Earth?  How can we govern without thinking about our children’s future?
I never thought this necessary transition would be easy to undertake. Of course, it’s not easy. In fact, nothing is easy. Why don’t we work twice as hard? Why is change so scary? Who are we protecting?

Interview by Grégoire Laville

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