December 2007 : Between Sea and Ice

Published on 06.01.2008 - Tara Arctic

For about a month, the French sailing ship Tara has little by little been extracting herself from its shackles of ice and has been moving slowly towards interstitial waters. A fantastic journey.

Although the ship has already reached the Fram Strait (to the Northeast of Greenland), it seems that the members of this expedition don't know yet whether they'll be coming out on the Greenland side or on the Iceland side. To date, the sailing ship is in fact still a prisoner of the pack ice. It is no longer as it was a few weeks ago, i.e. entirely welded to the ice, but rather surrounded by gigantic ice floes that are still holding it fast, as in a vice.

The crew is finding this experience of witnessing, "live", the disentrapment of the sailing ship quite unforgettable. First of all, nobody knows when Tara will really be able to sail in interstitial waters - this is obviously pretty exciting in itself; second of all, the ten people aboard are experiencing a fascinating sight, by night as much as by day. The mysterious movements of the ice sometimes dislodge the sailing ship from its grip, and sometimes enclose it in its claws again.

To give an overview of the atmosphere on board, here's one of the extracts from the logbook (13 December 2007): "At this moment, Tara's main cabin is resonating. The ice is exerting extraordinary pressure against the hull, and this contact is creating strident noises. Friction between two clashing substances. Aluminium against ice. This gnashing is continuous. For the sailors, it's exactly like the noise of a fender, a tyre being crushed between a quay and a hull for example. Side movements, scuffles, also accompany these noises. Tara is plugged regularly by these blocks, which are floating like ice cubes on top of a glass of water."

What is in any event certain is that for these last few weeks, the sloop has been sort of following the lines of the Greenland coast, impelled by a south-westerly current. Of course, all the technical checks have been made on board (state of the ship, etc). Whatsmore is that several times per week, the divers visit the bottom of the ship to check the status of the nine-metre aileron of ice that has formed beneath the keel. Meanwhile, uncertainty reigns. But the final release is fast approaching...

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