Les iles Salomon : dans l’oeil du cyclone climatique ?


Heading to Hawaii

Why does the Pacific Ocean have this name? With huge waves sweeping the deck these days, we really wonder. On …

Why does the Pacific Ocean have this name? With huge waves sweeping the deck these days, we really wonder. On Tara’s bridge, Captain Yohann Mucherie checks the weather forecast, but is not reassured. Sure there’s wind, but it’s not well oriented for our voyage. On this first night of the schooner’s long Pacific crossing, the sails remain folded and the two 350-horsepower Cummins engines drive the boat towards Hawaii.

Science on the high seas

There’s no coral between Tokyo and Hawaii, but this doesn’t mean scientific research aboard Tara stops. Fabien Lombard, a plankton specialist at the Villefranche-sur-Mer Observatory, is heading the Franco-Japanese scientific team that embarked in Tokyo. For Lorna (French), Rumi and Hiro (2 Japanese students from Kyoto University), this is their very first time aboard Tara. Every morning and every evening they will use a variety of devices to collect surface water, then carefully label, observe and conserve the different species of plankton.

The opportunity was too good to pass up – to continue the Tara Oceans expedition’s research, which involved 4 years of sampling plankton around the world. The long crossing between Japan and Hawaii will allow us to complete and update the mapping of these organisms. Plankton is the basis of the entire food chain and therefore of all marine life, including coral whose larvae are part of the plankton drifting with the currents.

Aboard Tara, everything is ready. The wet lab on deck is where the collected water samples will be filtered and put into vials, some of them stored in liquid nitrogen to be analyzed later. Inside the boat in the dry lab, analyses of the samples are carried out to determine their composition. But the sea makes its own rules and during these first days, the so-called “Pacific” doesn’t make any concessions to science or the newly embarked scientists. The wind gets stronger, the swell increases. Tara rolls from side to side and not many people come to the table for dinner. The samples will have to wait.
Le HSN, pour High Speed Net (Filet Haute Vitesse), se positionne juste au niveau de la surface grâce à ses deux ailes métalliques.
The High Speed Net is used by scientists onboard Tara to sample plankton while sailing – © Yann Chavance / Tara Expeditions Foundation

Weather and incantations

The 4 sailors are gathered on the bridge: Loïc Caudan (chief mechanic), Charlène Gicquel (first mate), and Louis Wilmotte (deck officer ) surround the captain. They look at the weather charts which still don’t announce good news. There’s a lot of wind, but it’s not really favorable to our route. The sailors try to stabilize the boat to give some relief to our bodies, weakened by these first uncomfortable hours. They hoist the staysail to help offset the rolling of the boat. A few hours later, under a biting rain, they brave the elements again to hoist the yankee and the foresail. The wind has turned and is now pushing Tara towards Hawaii.

Pale faces take on color. The dining table in the main cabin is filled again. Sophie the cook spares no effort in her narrow kitchen juxtaposing the dining area. Despite the boat’s tossing and pitching, Sophie prepares meringue, bakes pastry and minces herbs, making sure that the fresh produce purchased in Japan will last as long as possible. “We’re not going to end up eating from cans, are we?”.

Navigating with the elements

Three o’clock in the morning: Yohann squints at a map of the Kuroshio current sent by Mercator, the French center for ocean analysis and forecasts, partner of the Tara Foundation. The Kuroshio is the second strongest marine current after the Gulf Stream. Originating in the warm waters of the Philippines, it carries abundant planktonic fauna and flora, making it possible for coral to grow in northern regions of Japan. Meeting the cold waters of the North Pacific, the current ends up swirling to the east of the Japanese archipelago. But tonight the warm Kuroshio current (waters at 22 degrees) is right in front of us. “We’re going to follow the current, not only in the interest of science, but also to increase our speed by 2 knots. A winning situation.


L’un des derniers couchers de soleil sur Tara et l’archipel des Gambier.
© Yann Chavance / Tara Expeditions Foundation


Return to calm

Tara’s deck is busy early in the morning. Finally the weather is beautiful, so we can unfurl all the sails, even the mainsail with new cables recently installed in Tokyo. Sailors and scientists surround the HSN, the high speed net. Lowered at the stern of the ship, it collects water samples through a 300-micron filter. At starboard, the Dolphin net is surfing alongside the hull. It captures surface water that is pumped and transported on deck where it passes through a 20-micron filter. The 4 scientists are working meticulously with all these samples. In the evening, the whole procedure is repeated again. Scientific research creates its own schedule, and we must make the most of the clear weather.

After a week at sea, a little Tara community has formed. Sailors and scientists get to know each other and are learning from each other. Everybody volunteers when we have to hoist the sails or lower the nets into the water. Everyone is learning to recognize copepods. Everyone will eventually know how to make a square knot. “ It’s the Tara spirit”, says Charlene Gicquel, first mate, her eyes sparkling with the pure pleasure of being here.

Caroline Britz,correspondent aboard Tara, May 2018

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© Vincent Hilaire / Fondation Tara Expéditions

Tara on the Kuroshio current

Tara is back at sea again and we can truly say our re-entry was athletic! Just outside of Tokyo Bay, …

Tara is back at sea again and we can truly say our re-entry was athletic! Just outside of Tokyo Bay, the schooner entered a low-pressure system. High wind and big waves got the better of certain crew members during the first 48 hours, but the rough sea certainly didn’t stop the sailors. They braved the elements to hoist several sails — staysail, foresail and yankee — immediately stabilizing the schooner and calming our bodies.

In these difficult weather conditions, Tara got help from the Kuroshio, the world’s second strongest ocean current after the Gulf Stream. By following the Kuroshio, Tara’s speed increased by 2 knots compared to her average velocity – a true aquatic conveyer belt!

sophie bin nav japon hawaii mai 2018 © Sophie Bin / Tara Expeditions Foundation

Besides having nautical qualities, the Kuroshio current is of great interest to the scientists on board. Thanks to warm tropical waters and the Coriolis force, this current provides favorable conditions for coral reefs to develop in Japan, much further north than any other coral worldwide.

In biological terms, this zone is extremely active thanks to an upwelling of cold waters from the deep that carry nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorus, mixing with warm tropical waters. This enables plankton to thrive”, explains Fabien Lombard, scientific coordinator of this leg. In the first samples collected close to the main stream, the scientists have already found large numbers of diatoms, a kind of phytoplankton.
A promising start for Tara’s long crossing to Hawaii!

Caroline Britz


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© Sophie Bin / Tara Expeditions Foundation

Warm reunion in Japan

Tara left foggy China and arrived 5 days (and 750 miles) later in Japan. After her last visit one year …

Tara left foggy China and arrived 5 days (and 750 miles) later in Japan. After her last visit one year ago, Tara returns to the land of the Rising Sun where the welcome is as warm and enthusiastic as always.

Tara began her stay in Japan by docking at the Nio Marina in Mitoyo where several hundred people gave her a welcoming ceremony with true fanfare, in the literal sense of the word. After a welcome speech, the Mayor and the director of the City Assembly presented the crew with local treats. Then a group of young girls from Mitoyo gave a superb performance of rhythmic gymnastics.


Hibino, during Tara’s stopover in Mitoyo –  © Noémie Olive / Tara Expeditions Foundation 


The sea, source of inspiration

As in each one of Tara’s scientific expeditions, education and art mingle here. The sea has always been a source of inspiration for artists. Hibino, a visual artist from Tokyo, well-known for his installations at the Center Pompidou in Paris and at the Venice Biennale, embarked for a few days aboard the schooner. He has had ties with Tara for over 20 years.

Hibino served as a guide for us to discover the island of Awashima where he has established an artists’ residence. On Awashima, clocks no longer indicate the hour: time has stopped, leaving its mark on the 208 inhabitants. The average age is high and most young people have left the island. Still, the houses are surrounded by flowers, as in the old days when the tiny island had a merchant marine academy that trained many long-distance travelers across the world’s oceans.

The painter Maki (former artist-in-residence aboard Tara) joined the adventure again. She celebrates the sea in her paintings and has created a marine universe populated by strange and fantastic creatures.


© Noëlie Pansiot / Tara Expeditions Foundation

More than 30,000 species depend on coral

The schooner’s passage last year in Japan allowed Tara’s scientists, accompanied by researchers from Japanese universities, to study the effects of temperature changes and the impacts of increased water acidity (pH) on marine ecosystems. Japan has a great wealth of coral reefs, due in part to the Kuroshio current that favors the transport of coral larvae to northern Japan, just above Tokyo. The Kuroshio carries warm water, which explains why the temperature here is higher than in other places of the same latitude. Coral even grows in the bay of Tokyo! In the long term, researchers believe there could be a shift in population distribution: some coral species could migrate north, as they disappear from southern Japan. The Kuroshio has its source in the Coral Triangle, so it connects Japan to a “nest” of biodiversity. Last year Tara partially explored this region of the Pacific which represents only 1% of the Earth’s surface, but concentrates 30% of the coral reefs. The Coral Triangle – cradle of a very rich biodiversity – is one of the main breeding grounds for tunas, blue whales and sperm whales.

During Tara’s passage through the Solomon Islands, Papua-New Guinea and Indonesia, we collected over 25,000 samples. Analysis of these samples in Tara’s partner laboratories has already begun to deliver lessons for a better understanding of coral reefs, their state of health and ability to adapt to the environmental changes threatening the planet. After this trip to Japan and completion of our educational outreach among young Japanese, Tara will resume scientific missions in Hawaii in June 2018.

Noémie Olive

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© Noémie Olive / Tara Expeditions Foundation

Shanghai, a key stage for Tara

The entire crew was on deck during this 15-day stopover rich in encounters and events. Education, scientific meetings, cocktails with …

The entire crew was on deck during this 15-day stopover rich in encounters and events. Education, scientific meetings, cocktails with partners, and, as a central piece of this stopover, an exhibition at the Cartier Foundation. Tara accomplished her missions on all fronts.

Shanghai, a city adapting to changes in the People’s Republic of China

Young Chinese adults face challenges as imposing as the skyscrapers of Pudong, Shanghai’s business district. Within this meritocratic society, people must be even more competitive than before. Though a communist country, school and care incur additional fees, there is no superannuation, and everyone has to make his own mark. However, the Chinese see the glass as half-full and are optimistic. “When we consider our standard of living 30 years ago, we realize we moved from misery to “everything is possible”, so we’re not going to complain. On the contrary, what’s happening to us is pretty amazing” , Liwu says, a young man who studied in France and came back to China to be an actor and is witnessing his country’s phenomenal growth. Here, nostalgia is rare. China is being transformed and the media are looking forward to the day when China will become the world’s biggest economic power.


Romain describes Tara’s various missions to an attentive audience © Noémie Olive / Tara Expeditions Foundation

The government wants to meet ecological challenges

Since the pollution peaks in 2013, the Chinese have been sensitive to environmental issues. Expatriates and Chinese people daily check applications on their phone to know the concentration of micro-particles and determine if they can go to the park with their children. The government promised to take measures to reduce pollution by providing more electric vehicles (petrol scooters have already been banned from large cities), building more ecological towers and supporting the north of the country to transition from coal to gas. China wants to continue to progress while adapting to the challenges of our time, including taking care of our planet.

From the continent to the ocean

Every day, the Taranauts presented the Tara Pacific expedition to Chinese and French children aged between 5 and 16. The crucial role of coral in preserving biodiversity was emphasized. 1,400 pupils visited the schooner and most classes were well prepared, thanks to their teachers and Tara Junior’s support. Many were already familiar with agnès b.’s role, the schooner’s history and the negative impact of plastic waste in the oceans.

In the afternoons, researchers from various institutes visited the scientific facilities aboard. In the evenings, Tara hosted cocktail receptions, where the crew served home-made appetizers and French dishes to long standing sponsors.

In the art world of art, Tara also has her place. The Cartier Foundation had reserved a space to screen the documentaries tracing the schooner’s 3 major missions: Tara Oceans, Tara Arctic and Tara Pacific. On the 5th floor of the Power Station of Arts (PSA), a former power plant transformed into the first Museum of Contemporary Art in China, an exhibition dedicated to Tara took place alongside great names in the contemporary art world such as Takeshi Kitano, Christian Boltanski, Raymond Depardon and Cai Guo-Qiang.

Noémie Olive

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© Noémie Olive / Tara Expeditions Foundation

Video: Tara and Tan Kah Kee: Franco-Chinese joint missions

The oceanographic research vessel of Xiamen University, Tan Kah Kee, welcomed Tara upon her arrival in Xiamen. Side by side, …

The oceanographic research vessel of Xiamen University, Tan Kah Kee, welcomed Tara upon her arrival in Xiamen. Side by side, these two scientific research vessels, French and Chinese, crossed the channel leading to the city’s harbor. Pending a future joint scientific expedition, Tara and the Tan Kah Kee welcomed aboard Chinese visitors. Nearly 4,500 people were thus made aware of the challenges involved in protecting the Oceans.

© Noémie Olive – Fondation Tara Expeditions

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© Noémie Olive / Fondation Tara Expeditions

Tara in Shanghai: major stopover in a mythical city

Tara departed from Xiamen, continuing her one-month tour of China. A 5-day journey to arrive in Shanghai, one of the …

Tara departed from Xiamen, continuing her one-month tour of China. A 5-day journey to arrive in Shanghai, one of the world’s largest mega-cities. 

As we departed from Xiamen, the sun hailed the schooner by plunging into the China Sea and sending out rays that tinted the clouds pink, like the brushstrokes of a great calligrapher. Two white dolphins even came to complete the show.
Tara traveled 550 miles (1,018 kilometers) to Shanghai |– 5 days of crossing, including one at anchor. That was a funny day, when Tara had to wait off the coast of the city, as if on a parking lot at sea, amidst dozens of cargoes, container ships, trawlers and fishing boats, before she could go up Shanghai’s Huangpu River. Then, as we finally sailed up the river the city’s skyscrapers emerged from the mist.

1.proue_Tara_perle de-orient@Noemie_Olive© Noémie Olive / Tara Expeditions Foundation


Shanghai, a mythical city in full swing

Shanghai offers a stunning spectacle: it is one of the most populous cities in the world, with 24 million inhabitants and nearly 1,000 skyscrapers at least 30 stories high. The recent Shanghai Tower, the second tallest building in the world, dominates this “standing city” with its 630 meters.
In the harbor Tara occupies a place of honour, moored in front of the Oriental Pearl Radio and TV Tower with unique architecture composed of several spheres. For many visitors it is a symbol of Shanghai.

Night and day the schooner is rocked by the constant passage of boats. The maritime traffic never stops. Not far away is the Bund, a seaside promenade lined by European-style buildings and some futuristic ones with acid colors reminiscent of the world of Disney.

Tara will host many events involving partners and will continue our educational mission, welcoming Shanghai’s schoolchildren aboard the boat.


Noémie Olive

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© Noémie Olive / Tara Expeditions Foundation

China – a new partner for Tara

The Tara Foundation has just established new relations with China, the largest country in the world, in the form of …

The Tara Foundation has just established new relations with China, the largest country in the world, in the form of a partnership with the University of Xiamen. On April 6 at a press conference aboard the schooner Romain Troublé, director of the Tara Foundation, along with Min Han Dai, director of the Science and Technology Department at the University of Xiamen, and scientist Chris Bowler (PSL, CNRS), reaffirmed their vision of the Ocean as a global system and announced their desire to collaborate. The University of Xiamen recently acquired an oceanographic research vessel, the Tan Kah Kee, which could eventually navigate alongside Tara on the same scientific mission to expand the scope of scientific research.

Interview with 2 men who have the same goal: understanding the Ocean to better protect it.

What is this partnership about?

Romain: The Tara Foundation has wanted to collaborate with China for a long time.  When I came to this country with the French President at the beginning of the year, I presented Tara’s proposal: a scientific and educational partnership around the issues of biodiversity and climate. In concrete terms, this would involve an exchange of French and Chinese PhD students and post-doctoral students. For basic research, the details remain to be determined by our research partners, but we will definitely share the protocols already established by the Tara Oceans scientific consortium so they can be implemented at the marine stations of Xiamen University and aboard the research vessel Tan Kah Kee. In China there is already an important microbiobome project to study the world of microbes, especially at sea. Tara could participate in this, and in the longer term, undertake a joint expedition with the Tan Kah Kee. We have many points in common, and points that are complementary. The researchers of Tara Oceans and I are delighted by these perspectives of collaboration which will increase      knowledge of the Ocean.

Min Han Dai: Tara is a boat with many interesting and unique aspects — a sailboat conceived to study the oceans, funded by a French fashion house and other private partners. As for the collaboration, I believe we are on the right track. When Tara arrived with Romain and some of the scientists involved with China, we were able to sweep away the shadows looming over our future partnership. We share this common and global vision for the protection of the oceans, and we’re exploring the possibilities for France and China to work together in this direction.

Les_deux_partenaires_la proue_Tara@Noemie_Olive.jpgMin Han Dai and Romain Troublé on Tara’s prow  © Noémie Olive / Tara Expeditions Foundation

How can the two boats, Tara and Tan Kah Kee, be complementary?

Romain: The Xiamen laboratories are expert at understanding the bio-geochemistry of the oceans, in the analysis of trace metals in particular, essential elements for the ecosystem. Tara alone is not sufficient and it would be great if other boats adopt the protocols, as our Brazilian partners have done.

Min Hai Dai: In order for our data to be comparable, we need to be using the same protocol. While adopting Tara’s method for microbiome sampling, we can rely upon the Tan Kah Kee for geo-trace metal expertise. The data collected by each boat can then be analyzed together.

Romain, why associate with China?

Without becoming naively optimistic, I think the future of the planet depends on China’s responses to environmental issues. For the Tara Foundation, it’s important to accompany this movement, to support research and education. China now has a leading role, and as in any market, if the leader changes, so does the market. The whole world wants to sell things to China. If China changes in the direction proclaimed everywhere, to become the champion of sustainable development, the world will change for the better!


Noémie Olive

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© Noémie Olive / Tara Expeditions Foundation

Awareness campaign in Taiwan

After scientific research comes educational outreach. During Tara’s 4-day stopover in Keelung, visits of the schooner were organized for primary …

After scientific research comes educational outreach. During Tara’s 4-day stopover in Keelung, visits of the schooner were organized for primary school children in the morning and the general public in the afternoon.


In all, nearly 750 people explored the 36-meter schooner – visiting the spaces devoted to scientific research, the main cabin, kitchen, corridor with the crew’s cabins, and climbing the ladder in the forward hold to emerge on deck.

Taiwan is a special place for Tara – for the diversity of coral reefs surrounding the island, and the warm welcome given to the crew members. Every day, students from the National Taiwan Ocean University (NTOU) and port agents came aboard, loaded with fruit baskets, pineapple cakes, the famous Bubble tea (the local cold tea with tapioca pearls) and even Taiwanese beer!

On the official side, Tara was invited to the Palmes Académiques ceremony, where this year’s Palm was awarded to Ching-Fang Chang, Director of NTOU University. This distinction recognizes people for exceptional work in the field of education. Ching-Fang Chang, who facilitated Tara’s arrival, was honored for 30 years of scientific activity and her commitment to developing and maintaining exchanges between French and Taiwanese students.


© Noémie Olive / Tara Expeditions Foundation


Taiwan tackles plastic

Taiwan has been recycling waste since the 1990s. Ming-Jay Ho, researcher at Academia Sinica explains: “In terms of education, it starts in primary school. If you don’t put trash in the proper container, garbage collectors will not pick it up. Taiwan is a small island and to conserve our resources, we must become more eco-oriented.”

Paradoxically, individual packaging is omnipresent: each orange, flower, or cake is wrapped in plastic. The government nevertheless continues its actions to fight against pollution and in particular, pollution of the oceans. Starting in 2019, fast-food chains and grocery stores will be banned from distributing plastic straws, with a complete ban in 2030 including plastic cups and plates.

Noémie Olive

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© Noémie Olive / Tara Expeditions Foundation

Tara studying Taiwan’s biodiversity

For 4 days Tara successfully continued scientific research, then weighed anchor and left behind Orchid Island and Green Island, off …

For 4 days Tara successfully continued scientific research, then weighed anchor and left behind Orchid Island and Green Island, off the eastern coast of Taiwan.

Tara Pacific’s 3 target species were found and collected on site. According to Emilie Boissin, scientific coordinator of this mission (CRIOBE), “these sites are interesting because they represent the northern boundary of the distribution area for these tropical species”.

Porites lobata (commonly known as lobe coral), Millepora platyphylla (plate fire coral) and Pocillopora meandrina (cauliflower coral) survive in these latitudes thanks to the Kuroshio, a warm north-flowing current, the world’s strongest after the Gulf stream.

Vianney Denis, a French researcher based in Taiwan, told us that a Japanese team traveled from Taiwan to Japan by kayak, following the current flow, at an average speed of 1.5 knots (a little less than 3 km/h).
Plankton and fish samples will be carefully stored aboard the schooner until the mission’s end and Tara’s return to Lorient, in October 2018. In contrast, the coral samples will probably be unloaded in Taiwan, since coral is a protected species. After completion of customs export formalities, they’ll be shipped by plane to our partner laboratories.


© Noémie Olive / Tara Expeditions Fondation


Monday, March 26, a major clean-up day!

Sailors scrubbed the deck, walkways, cabins and corridors. Scientists disinfected all sample bottles to prevent any collected plankton from proliferating aboard Tara! They left vials and pipes in perfect condition for the next scientific team.

On Monday evening the schooner set sail for Keelung where crew members will sport their agnès b. cardigans to greet Tara’s visitors. A welcome ceremony will take place upon arrival in the port of Keelung, and the crew will enjoy Taiwanese kindness and hospitality once again, just one year after Tara’s first stopover here.

Noémie Olive

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© Noémie Olive / Tara Expeditions Foundation

Video: Hong Kong: coral and the city

Tara spent nearly 10 days in Hong Kong. A highly urbanized and densely populated environment, the archipelago faces a major …

Tara spent nearly 10 days in Hong Kong. A highly urbanized and densely populated environment, the archipelago faces a major challenge: the management of its waste. Unfortunately, plastics, styrofoam and wastewater end up too often in the sea and threaten to disrupt the marine ecosystem. The Taranauts took advantage of their stopover to participate in a beach cleanup operation organized by the French community, before going to take the pulse of Hong Kong’s coral further east, at Crescent Island.

© Agathe Roullin / Tara Expeditions Foundation
© Drone images : François Aurat / Tara Expeditions Foundation

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© François Aurat / Tara Expeditions Foundation