Even more than other regions of our planet, the Arctic today is undergoing significant climate change. Each year the ice pack melts to its minimum by September. In the past 30 years, both surface area and thickness of the permanent Arctic sea ice have decreased by 40%. With the pack ice melting, new maritime routes opening and the exploitation of oil and gas deposits, the Arctic region is increasingly subject to economic and environmental upheavals.
At the beginning, a revolutionary vision
Tara was born of a dream: to create an ideal vessel for polar expeditions and thus perpetuate the tradition of great 19th century explorers.
The schooner's wide aluminium hull has rounded flanks designed to escape the phenomenal pressures exerted by pack ice. When plaques of ice close in, they slide under the hull, lifting it up instead of crushing it.
In the wake of the explorer Fridtjof Nansen
Before Tara, only one sailboat – the Fram in 1893 – had ever dared to confront the extreme conditions of the Arctic. A hundred years later, Tara accomplished a contemporary version of the Fram expedition, spotlighting the spectacular aspect of this unique scientific adventure and revealing current environmental upheavals.
With the crew: the Taranauts
Throughout the Arctic drift, 20 Taranauts and 2 dogs learned to live on the ice floe: Sailor, pilot, medical doctor, scientists with various specialties, mountain guide, journalist, photographer, cameraman, artist – Men and women of many nationalities, all committed to observing, informing, raising awareness.
The Taranauts were visited 18 times by bears. Some came very close to the boat, threatening equipment, crew and dogs. Zagrey and Tiksi, the 2 faithful huskies got injuries requiring stitches.
Tara Arctic polar station
During Tara's 15-month drift, researchers made many observations and surveys of the atmosphere, up to an altitude of 1,500 meters, and beneath the Arctic ice to a depth of more than 4,000 meters. Temperature of air and water, pressure, salinity, intensity of winds, the pack ice was closely studied to evaluate its evolution in real time. After this data was recorded aboard Tara, it was regularly transmitted by satellite to researchers on land.
Mission impossible accomplished!
Starting with a very difficult installation on the ice pack (in 2006) until their triumphant emergence after 507 days of drifting with the ice floe, the TARA team took on an incredible challenge.
This journey to the heart of the climate system represents the backbone of the TARA Foundation's mission, and legitimized the schooner's role as a fantastic environmental observatory.
The Tara Foundation thanks the photographers
and the architects Mr. Luc Bouvet and Mr. Olivier Petit (Tara's plan)