February 2007, through the 85th degree

Published on 28.02.2007 - Tara Arctic

Tara on ice

Tara on ice

© International Polar Foundation

On Saturday February 3, Tara is through the 85th degree. This is a mythical mark since very few boats have actually passed this limit. Only ice-breakers, submarines, Nansen's renowned Fram and now the schooner Tara have ventured so far along the pack ice!

Here are a couple excepts from Tara's logbook explaining how the French sailboat managed to pass this mark (it is still Denys whom is writing): " During the dark night of a cloudy sky, pushed by tempestuous winds coming in from the southeast, surrounded by snow flurries and deafened by the wind through the rigging, our progression is close to 1 knot per hour. Meanwhile, the barometer which had risen to 1040 hpa, falls rapidly and, moreover, the temperature rises 25°, going from -40°C to -15°C."

" For the moment, our equipment is holding on, the pack ice is curiously stable and TARA is behaving admirably well, solidly anchored to the pack ice. She maintains her 7° heel. On the other hand, outside in the wind, snowdrifts are forming, meaning we will have some snow-digging when the storm is over. It is out of the question to be doing any probing out on the pack ice by this weather and our outings are put aside for bare necessities only."

In this beginning of February, activities on board are slow. First of all, there has been a strong storm, obliging the men to stay vigilant since enormous pieces of ice have come smashing against the sailboat's hull; the pack ice's movements have apparently been very frightening.

Then, there was a probe break down, which slowed down the scientific activities. This whole period was thus one of free time, favouring all kinds of discussions amongst the crew members. Since the men were extenuated by the stress of these past few months in the polar darkness, conversations revolved especially around the sunlight's comeback. " Sunlight is probably the first thing we will see tomorrow when we wake up", wrote Denys, "Each and every one of us will walk out onto the pontoon and realize the intensity of the light. For three days now it has been more than light, and bluish and pinkish tints are starting to form along the horizon, a sign that the spectrum is getting wider and that the sun is not far. "

On February 20, the big day has finally arrived. Since it had been atrocious weather for over three weeks and since the sky had been heavily cloudy, Tara's crew was not able to follow the light spectrum's evolution live. But today, good weather is finally back. And, with a clear sky, dawn's clarity has suddenly been freed. Denys describes well this unforgettable moment: " The horizon went through the entire range of colours of the spectrum with, like a stand guard admiring the sight, a thin quarter of the moon glowing through a dark blue sky. This light is truly a reward for all these months of darkness. At the lightest moment, around 9 am, the reverberation upon the pack ice's whiteness enabled us to see clearly almost like a cloudy day down in your own latitudes. For us, it is already a dazzle, but it is also a physical stimulation for the whole team, no luxury when one thinks of all the work that needs to be done in order to catch up for Spring. Meanwhile, each morning will bring a new sight, one we will take advantage of while we work down on the pack ice. "

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