Tara prepares for the long voyage to Hawaii

© Caroline Britz / Tara Expeditions Foundation

Ariake dock in south Tokyo: From the aerial metro line, you can see Tara’s masts rising in the heart of the Japanese capital. After a first visit in 2017, the schooner came back for a busy stopover, with many more people coming aboard. For the crew these are the last days to prepare the boat for the long North Pacific crossing and the return to scientific research.

For 2 days, deck officer Louis Wilmotte and chief mechanic Loïc Caudan were like tightrope walkers on the masts, replacing certain cables that were showing signs of fatigue. A rather spectacular operation conducted under the supervision of Jean Collet, Tara’s first captain, who came especially from France for this operation.

As for research work, Fabien Lombard (from the Observatoire Océanologique in Villefranche-sur-Mer) – scientific coordinator of the upcoming crossing – is preparing the sampling equipment that will be used daily at sea. Around him is a small French-Japanese team: Rumiko Yamoto and Hiroaki Takebe came from Kyoto University to take part in the expedition, and Lorna Foliot, from the LCSE (Laboratoire du Climat, des Sciences et de l’Environnement) embarked for the first time aboard Tara.

Quatre nouveaux scientifiques ont embarqué sur Tara pour la traversée du Pacific Nord entre le Japon et Hawaii © Caroline Britz / Tara Expeditions Foundation

During the long North Pacific crossing, the 4 scientists will be extremely busy. As soon as Tara leaves Japan’s waters they will conduct a sampling station every morning to collect surface waters. Temperature, acidity, water color, concentration of plankton – in all about 50 parameters will be recorded for each sample.

Our goal: to precisely document the influence of these different environmental parameters on the structure and diversity of Pacific coral reefs. “Thanks to the Tara Pacific expedition, samples can be collected all along the Pacific Ocean currents. It is thus possible to follow the voyage of coral larvae which are part of the plankton. This will help us understand the colonization mechanisms of the various species of coral.

During the crossing, Fabien Lombard will also test a new model of high speed net that can collect samples up to a speed of 9 knots (about 17 km /h). “We want to see if this prototype works well, and if it could eventually be developed on a larger scale”. Our idea is to propose this net to volunteer boaters who would install it on their boats and thus participate in the collection of data all over the world (https://plankton-planet.org/). Tara as an outpost of participatory science!

Caroline Britz

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