December 2006, everyone goes about its own business

Published on 31.12.2006 - Tara Arctic

Chaos of the ice pack

Chaos of the ice pack

© International Polar Foundation

Aboard Tara, each day resembles the other. With an average speed of a half a knot per hour, the ship is drifting in the right direction and each crew member goes about their own business.

Nicolas Quentin, 27 years old and head mechanic on board, is responsible for the wise management of energy expenditure and for the good functioning of the generator. Mathieu Weber, 28 years old, is the scientist on board. Sent on temporary assignment by the oceanography laboratory of the University of Paris-Jussieu, he is responsible for the development of scientific observations and measurements. The fact that he finds himself in such a hostile environment has impeded the functioning of his instruments. Bruno Vienne, 53 years old and cameraman for the expedition, dreams of beautiful sunlight and regrets the bears don't come roaming more numerously around the ship. Hervé Bourmaud, 35 years old and assistant mechanic, is responsible for pulling up the probes from the abyssal zones of the Arctic Ocean. In order to do so, he takes very good care of the winches. As for Gamet Agamirzayev, 42 years old, he is the polar logistic specialist and the handyman of the expedition. Very knowledgeable in polar conditioning of the equipment, he keeps an eye on everything and makes sure nothing is thrown out. He is capable of repairing all kinds of equipment and of giving them a second life. He is the one who, for example, built a precarious sauna with recuperated wooden boards, making the whole crew very happy. When they are out on the ice, he knows how to get out of all the pack ice's traps.

On Christmas day, Tara nears the latitude of 84° N. The expedition is on its 111th day of drift. The ship's position is precisely 83°49'5761'' N/135°27'0100'' E. The drift's speed is around 0.3 knots. There is wind of about 10 knots, coming from the north. Visibility is good and the sky is clear. No moon. No day. The pack ice is unstable. The outside temperature is of -30°C, and that of the water is -1.7°C.

Here is an excerpt from the logbook on Christmas day (it is still Denys Bourget whom is writing): "At the end of this Christmas day spent at nearly 84°N, we think, of course, of our families and loved ones, and we try to take advantage of this particularly important celebration to live it fully, to forget about the worries we may have and to let the good mood take over. The square was decorated with Christmas ornaments, tinsel garlands, Christmas trees and stars; Christmas Eve was celebrated with a table full of food, sweets that had been prepared with lots care, and the arrival of Santa Claus at midnight, with very nice little presents. And, today also, we honoured our table of December 25 by making our lunch last longer than usual. 'To have a bean feast, for us, the only way to celebrate formal occasions', said Nansen in 1893, and times have not changed! It is indeed an exceptional event to be at this latitude, on the trail of our renowned Norwegian predecessor, with the aim to heighten public's awareness to the consequences of global warming. Christmas also coincides with the winter solstice, a very important moment for all the people living in the North because, from now on, days will become longer and, also, because the sun's comeback is nearing and should return in about two months."

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