October 2006, from ice to water

Published on 31.10.2006 - Tara Arctic

Tara on the Arctic ice pack

Tara on the Arctic ice pack

© International Polar Foundation

At the beginning of the month, Tara is subject to forces caused by chaotic movements in the pack ice. The pressure is spectacular because it often comes with dull cracking sounds and worrisome squeakiness which seem to come from deep within the ship and to be directly taken from a horror movie.

Due to all this bobbing around, Tara heels regularly, then rights itself, then lists again. In order to calculate these heels, the technicians aboard have built what they call a tilt meter. This is how we know that most of the time the ship's heel is around 6° on the port side, not really a life-threatening position for the crew on board.

During the expedition's regular communications, it is interesting to note that, at a time and age where the water issue is beginning to be dealt with on a global basis, water is one of the expedition's major preoccupations. On October 8, 2006, Denys wrote: "Our fresh water production through osmosis is no longer possible since today, due to a temperature fall which stops the apparatus from functioning. We must now produce fresh water from the top layer of ice that is made up of packed down snow and of old ice, the salinity of which is very low. Indeed, as time goes by, salt moves towards the least cold areas in the pack ice, towards the bottom of the pack ice, thereby leaving the surface ice drinkable."

On October 25, 2006, he ads: "Water is subject to preoccupation and discussions because our comfort, our hygiene, and even our pleasure all depend on it. If the water supply from the pack ice is running smoothly as much from a quality perspective as from a quantity perspective, we are having some trouble evacuating waste waters and toilet waters. Even though many attempts have been made to improve the evacuation mains (incorporation of a heated resistance over the hull's passage), we have not been able to thaw the mains. For several days, we have had to evacuate our cooking water in a recipient, thereby complicating our domestic chores. In practice, the dishes are done in a basin; the dirty water is then decanted into a can that is, in turn, emptied through a whole in the pack ice. An entire expedition in itself! The toilet has now been moved onto the pack ice, between three ice-brick walls Galmet has sculpted. Comfort is relative due to the wind that sweeps in. But one must rationalize living conditions when one knows that water consumption varies from 5 litres per person a day (Madagascar) to 500 litres per person a day (USA) and that two billion people are completely or partially deprived of drinking water."

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