Tara Is Finally Freed!
Published on 23.01.2008 - Tara Arctic
A wonderful moment for the French ship, Tara: on 20 January, the captain started the engine and the ship was able to make headway once again, after more than 500 days adrift in the Arctic pack ice.
For a few days, the crew's excitement had been mounting. Everyone was aware that the moment of final release from the ice or, at least, the possibility that the ship would be able to use her rudder once again, was approaching. Yet, the expedition was bang in the middle of the stormy season; in recent weeks, although stuck in the ice, Tara had ridden out some big ones.
When the first sun rays appeared over the horizon, the great moment finally arrived. "Our nights are getting shorter", wrote Vincent Hilaire. "Our long polar night precisely. Today once again we've had several hours of orange-coloured dawn. Here and there it coloured the body of the clouds and the tops of the ice reefs around us. A process is therefore in progress. Gradually, in the same way as we got into it, we're getting out of the polar night. It will take several more weeks..." Four days before the firing up of the engine, the crew celebrated its 500th day adrift! That gave rise to an interesting interview with the expedition leader, who gave a progress report on this great adventure.
On 20 January, 1 20 PM, after having put the rudders carefully back in place, Chief Engineer Samuel Audrain fired up the starboard engine. This allowed Tara to thread her way, following to a precise course this time, between both thick and thin ice floes. Six hours later, Tara had covered 7 miles. The day, we've been told, was quite unforgettable... On 21 January, Tara crossed the borderline between ice and open water.
Today, the ship is sailing briskly towards the port of Longyearbyen, the capital of Spitzberg, at a speed of approximately 8 knots. She is still a hundred-odd miles from land.