Avril 2007: New Team, New Start

Published on 09.05.2007 - Tara Arctic

After a host of political/administrative difficulties, the Tara crew has finally been able to be replaced. It's a new start for this adventure.

April was somewhat animated for the men of the Tara expedition. It was indeed envisaged that the month would be devoted, on the one hand, to the changing of the crew (they had already been on the boat since September 2006!) and, on the other, to some experiments to be undertaken by the scientists of the European Damocles Programme. But that was without counting the political/administrative dickering of the Russians who were asked to give the green light to the flight of the DC3, which had to drop four tons of equipment on the scene, and of the Twin Otter, which had to fly eighteen people to the Tara.

This long waiting period had in fact lasted for nearly three weeks. And finally, on 21 April, the first parachuting of the pallets took place. Marion wrote: A short time after making this last radio contact, we saw this impressive contraption, which had to be at an altitude of a little more than 700 metres, appearing out of the middle of the cloud mass. The plane flew a first passage in order to get its bearings. During its second passage, it opened its rear hold and released the first two pallets of equipment: the parachutes opened very quickly. We watched with admiration as these packages fell from the sky to be deposited on the pack ice without getting damaged. Then it made a final passage in order to release two other pallets, one of which contained the tractor, which enabled us to finish the strip today. We set out to discover these packages in order to bring back the fresh provisions (fruit, vegetables and 130 kg of meat) to the boat as fast as possible and to start up the tractor in order to continue working the strip for the DC3. The mechanics started to tinker with the Russian crawler tractor and in less than two hours it was on the strip. The tractor was running all through the night in order to improve the strip and this morning the entire team took to their shovels to shift the large snowdrifts that the tractor was unable to remove. The work enabled the DC3 to put down this evening, and 11 new people, scientists and journalists, thus joined the team. Nicolas and Viktor took advantage of this flight to leave the base after seven months of drifting. As from this evening, there are therefore 19 of us on the Arctic/Tara base."

Towards the end of the month, the landing strip installed by the Tara crew was cracked over more than five metres; which obliged the expedition to rotate the personnel returns with the Twin Otter rather than with the DC3, which needs more than 300 metres for landing.

On April 28th, there were only 10 people left on board; the temporary village that had been built to accommodate the Damocles Programme scientists as comfortably as possible was dismounted and brought back on board. "The assessment of the April campaign is positive. The Tara staff and the Damocles Programme scientists were able to derive maximum benefit from little amount of time that was assigned to them and have consequently been able to achieve their initial objectives. About fifteen scientists were able to perform their manipulations under acceptable conditions thanks to some major logistical support", Marion wrote in the journey logbook.

For the five next months, the Tara people are going not only to continue certain scientific programmes set up during this period, such as a study of the seismic activity of the pack ice or an analysis of the physical atmospheric parameters, but will also be starting a biology programme for the Marseilles Oceanological Centre. And then, there is this question that everyone is asking and which returns all the time: until which latitude indeed will the Tara be able to drift?

Photo credits: Tara team

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