June 2007: the routine and the unexpected

Published on 02.07.2007 - Tara Arctic

Life goes on aboard Tara. The rise in the temperature calls for additional organisation. The ship also has to be thoroughly checked and the scientific activities have to continue.

Last month, we left Tara at the time when the new team was putting the finishing touches to the installations for the scientific work and was coming to the end of positioning the expedition's wind turbine on and in the ice. Since then, Tara's crew has had a relatively busy daily routine. At the beginning of the month, benefiting from the better weather, the crew split into two groups in order to let one half go out on the pack ice for a couple of days while the other remained in charge of the ship. In fact although excursions on skis had been decided, the expedition was actually hoping to get sufficiently close to the pole to be able to get to it on foot. But this was not to be, and the excursions were limited to simple outings on the pack ice. These were, as Charles Terrin (23 years old and officer of the bridge) wrote, "little mind-changing weekends".

As the seniors had gone back home, the sailing ship also had to checked from top to bottom, not only the bridge, which had just occurred, but also the hull and the keel. Benefiting from a hole in the ice that was used for descending the scientific probes, two men therefore dived beneath Tara. But only a part of the vessel could be examined, the other still being in the grip of the ice; the divers in any case discovered an astonishing 9-metre-high keel of ice that had formed under the ship during the winter.

While the activities were going on, the temperature was rising all the time. Consequence: the victuals that were still out on the ice had to be moved. Initially trying to use the igloo technique for storing the victuals inside, the men ended up having to put them in the ship's freezers.

In the middle of the month, the scientists measured the thickness of the ice and Marion Lauters (23), who is in charge of the on-board food supply, was busy concluding the biology programme for the COM (Centre of Oceanology of Marseilles), financed by the City of Marseilles and part of the DAMOCLES scientific programme.

The big surprise...

On July 1st, a big surprise was awaiting Tara's men and women. Here are some excerpts from Charles Terrin's account of what happened: "300th day of drift, first day of rain, and an unexpected visit! Eight o'clock in the evening, and dinner is over. The wind outside is playing in the rigging and what each of us thinks he or she can hear makes us laugh: for some, flutes or bagpipes, for others... a helicopter! Accompanied by Zagré's barking, we rushed out to discover, a 100 metres in front of us, a Russian helicopter and its ice breaker, Yamal, a few kilometres behind us."

"About ten people paid us a visit: three American journalists, two French lecturers (whom Marion and Sam knew), the Canadian expedition leader, a Russian interpreter and some crew members. They were on the way to the North Pole with 130 tourists (still on board the ice breaker) and had decided to come and say hello. At first we didn't understand what was happening and for about half an hour we were the centre of attention of this little group that in fact doubled our headcount. The helicopter took off again with its little world and returned a few minutes later with two cartons: one containing corn-on-the cobs and the other carrots – deep frozen!"

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