May 2007: the new crew gets down to work

Published on 05.06.2007 - Tara Arctic

After the rotation of the expedition members and scientists, the Tara crew has got back to work. But before resuming their scientific duties, they first had to remove all the snow from the boat.

For this second rotation, there are only ten members of the Tara crew on board, and they will have to remain there out on the ice for the next five months.

Their first task was to remove all of the snow from the boat. This is because during the long winter months, Tara had nestled down several metres into the ice. They then set about getting their vessel shipshape again. This work took a week, during which time shovels and ice-axes were working overtime.

8th May, Marion Lauters (23), the person in charge of the biology programme Marseille Oceanology Centre and stores on board, summarises the scientific programme ahead: "A group of readings will be taken within a 2 km radius around the boat," she writes. "A certain number of new pieces of apparatus were put in place during the April rotation by the various laboratories in the Damocles scientific programme. A balloon probe now makes it possible to carry out a range of weather profiles: wind speed and direction, temperature and humidity. A network of five seismometers records any seismic activity on the icecap, a radiometer measures the albedo (amount of reflection of the sun from the ice), an inclinometer measures the inclination of the ice, an Ice Mass Balance (IMB) measures the thickness of the ice, two chains of thermistors measure temperatures through the ice, a Pops (Polar Ocean Profiling System) takes automatic measurements of the conductivity and temperature profile on a 1000-metre column of water every day, and a camera takes regular shots to monitor changes to the area where all the readings are being taken. We now have to make regular checks to ensure that the apparatus is always in place and working. And we also have to recover data from some of the instruments. The programme to study the ice and snow has stepped up a gear with use of the EM31, which uses electromagnetism to measure the thickness of the ice along a 2-km straight line.

"A biology programme using Nansen bottles and plankton nets will enable us to take samples of nutritional salts, phytoplankton and zooplankton at different depths. The meteorology programme also includes the data transmitted automatically by the 16 buoys dropped by parachute in April around Tara over a square 500 km by 500 km by a Twin Otter, which is a small plane with landing skids. All of this new information comes in addition to the existing data we have gathered since the start of the drift, such as CTD profiles, Nansen bottles, weather readings close to Tara and the acoustic probe, etc."

Running in parallel to the resumption of these activities, day-to-day life on board continues, governed by the thawing ice and constant sunlight 24 hours a day. The crew is also taking advantage of these favourable conditions to go out on to the ice and collect anything that may have been left after the various movements and drop-offs that marked the crew rotation in April.

On 22nd May, making the most of a day's holiday to celebrate Norway's National Day, the expedition members held what they called "the 1st Summer Olympic Games". The programme included throwing the javelin/ice-axe, the long-jump, Frisbee throwing and a pulka/sledge race.

On 31st May, after several days of hard work, the expedition's wind turbine is finally operating. "We began by creating a timber base and the feet have now been pushed down firmly into the ice," writes Charles Terrin (23), officer on the bridge, "Next we assembled the mast and lever arm, then adjusted the stays that keep the wind turbine upright. There was an extended discussion about the best method of anchoring the stays in the ice... After that, we put the head and blades together. This part of the job wasn't very complicated, but there were a few false-starts. Our biggest problem was actually to get the windmill to stand up. We thought it would be something we could do manually, but after a few failed attempts, we soon discovered that wouldn't be possible. Fortunately, the winch came to our aid and we finally saw the turbine start to turn."

Photos: courtesy by Tara Expedition

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