January 2007, drifting favourably

Published on 31.01.2007 - Tara Arctic

Working on the ice

Working on the ice

© International Polar Foundation

Tara continues her slow advance towards the North Pole. During the first two weeks of January, the ship finds herself to be drifting favourably. But, the blizzard is blowing and it is very cold: -35°C.

Even though the end of the polar night is still far off, we can sense through the press releases published every three days on the expedition's Web site that the crew is impatient to see the first light of day break through the horizon. On January 18, Denys wrote: "We are probably spending our last period of complete darkness since, in one week's time, we should see the first quarter moon and then, from February on, the light of day."

"These days of darkness, which are nevertheless very inhospitable in the dark, may motivate us a little more to go out on the pack ice, since it is, in the end, this atmosphere along with the cold, that makes the region so special. And, for most of us, we will probably never return here during the wintertime. Therefore, we must therefore soak up this particular atmosphere and fill our heads and our cameras with these magical moments in order to share them later on. This is why I am take pictures of Tara, with the stars shining in the background and, if possible, an aurora borealis crowning the sky. Since these sceneries won't be visible anymore when the daylight returns, we are collecting now as many memories as we can!"

Luckily, as the days go by, a few crew members celebrate their birthdays, and our scientific observations must be pursued. On February 20, Hervé Bourmaud (assistant mechanic) and Mathieu Weber (one of the Damocles delegates) repair the meteorological mast which had broken during the strong pack ice movements on December 26. In order to realize what it is like to live such extreme cold on board, this is how the crew proceeds (excerpt from Denys' logbook): "Such repairs represent a good example of the possible constraints the cold may bring. Hervé took care of the mast which needed aluminium welding. We therefore needed to bring the mast inside because, in this cold, it is technically impossible to weld outside. ... The electric cabling was repaired by Mathieu whom also had some problems because all plastic, and especially cables, snap at the slightest twist in the cold. Here too, it was necessary to bring the cables inside when possible. To make the electric connections, an operation which has to be done outside, we had to heat the connectors with a blowtorch because of the frost. And, for the blowtorch to work, it must be maintained at a temperature of -10°C or above, otherwise the gas freezes! We therefore have to insulate it. And, last but not least, when the last electric connections are made, the thread of the screw causes problems because it does not have the same dilatation as usual, irritating thereby the operator because his fingers are becoming numb and starting to hurt and because he cannot see anything in the darkness. We understand better now why everything takes time on the pack ice!"

Here are Tara's coordinates such as reported on January 31: the ship is sailing through her 148th day of drift and her position is of 84°48' N/137°32' E. The drift is moving at a speed of 0.1 knots per hour. The wind is blowing at 4 knots from the northwest direction. Visibility is good and the sky is clear. The moon is on its first quarter. During the day, we can now see a weak light above the horizon, coming from the south. The pack ice is stable. The air temperature is of -23°C, and that of the water is -1.7°C.

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