[Interview] Thierry Mansir, doctor for Tara Expeditions

© Tara Expeditions Foundation

A hospital physician specialized in pediatrics, Dr. Thierry Mansir is also the official referral physician for Tara, volunteer work that he does passionately, organizing the medical aspects of our expeditions.


What is the particularity of Tara from a medical point of view?

Tara is a big boat where maneuvers are not necessarily simple, so we have to be extremely vigilant. Maneuvers aboard Tara are very different from those on a small sailboat of 5 or 10 meters.

There are other risks, related to scientific manipulations: Handling the winch that lowers nets into the water is dangerous, and scuba diving can be a source of accidents.

The boat sails in places around the globe where we have to take into account the geographical distance for emergency medical care. On board, some of the sailors received merchant marine training in first aid and are aware of the risks of each expedition. They are in contact with the CCMM (Centre de Consultation Médicale Maritime) in Toulouse in case of a medical problem.


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Thierry Mansir, hostpital physician specialized in pediatrics but also official referral physician for Tara



What is your role?

I intervene during the preparation phase of each expedition to assess the specific risks, for example, cold management for polar expeditions such as Tara’s Arctic drift on pack ice, between 2006 and 2008. We sent the entire crew to Chamonix for training with doctors specialized in medical risks related to the extreme cold. As a result, a protocol for frostbite treatment was implemented on board.

My role is primarily in training and prevention. Our goal is to anticipate risky situations rather than having to deal with them.


What medical protocol was set up for the Tara Pacific mission?

Before coming aboard, all crew members and scientists had a medical check-up oriented around scuba diving. Part of the crew received training in how to handle diving accidents, offered by specialized doctors and scuba diving experts in Toulon.

In addition, the boat was specially equipped for medical interventions. On board there’s an experimental hyperbaric chamber in case of a decompression accident. A sufficient supply of oxygen is available to treat someone until we reach the nearest port or hospital in the event of an accident.

We have an accurate map showing the hyperbaric centers and hospitals throughout the Pacific Ocean, and an on board pharmacy so we can perform first aid while waiting to reach a medical center on land.

The on board pharmacy has been supplemented with specific medicines for the needs of scuba divers.

Last but not least, we decided to limit depths for diving, and set up precise protocols to reduce as much as possible the risks related to this activity.


Maéva Bardy

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