Tara — drifting in the Arctic Ocean | Polarjournal
The new Arctic expedition planned for 2024 will aim to understand the effects of climate change on biodiversity and the adaptive capacity of endemic species. (Photo: Tara Océan Foundation)

To better understand and protect the oceans, the Tara Ocean Foundation has been taking action for nearly two decades. Its latest project is nothing less than a drifting research station in the Arctic, whose goal will be to gather information about the effects of global warming on marine biodiversity.

Now, 15 years after a first 500-day drift ice expedition with the sailing ship Tara, another expedition is to be launched to explore the Arctic and the problems caused by climate change. To this end, a new platform is being commissioned and should be operational within the next two years.

The schooner “Tara” is a French research vessel that has made research cruises along the coasts of Greenland, South Georgia and Patagonia, and was deployed as an ice drift station in the Arctic between 2006 and 2008. The expedition used the same technique that Fridtjof Nansen used to try to reach the North Pole in 1893: the schooner, which is just under 35 meters long and around 10 meters wide, has a round hull that is pressed upwards when it freezes in the ice, so that it sits on the ice and is not crushed by the ice masses. (Photo: Tara Océan Foundation)

In a press release dated 5 April, the Tara Ocean Foundation unveiled its new project. It comprises a new drifting polar research base. The Tara Polar Station aims to better understand the effects of global warming on marine biodiversity, as well as the adaptive capacity of endemic species.

The drifting polar station Tara, designed by architect Olivier Petit, will be available to scientists from around the world on several drift missions through 2045. The polar base is designed to accommodate an international crew of 12 to 20 people for missions of 18 consecutive months.

The plan is for scientists at the Tara polar station to conduct observations and experiments on site, including during the polar night in winter, at temperatures between -20° and -45° Celsius.

Romain Troublé, the director-general of the Tara Océan Foundation: “This mission will contribute to the discovery of important knowledge about climate change before its consequences are fully perceptible around the world.” (Photo: Tara Océan Foundation)

A multidisciplinary project

“This ice-covered and hard-to-reach ocean at the edge of the world remains a mystery to science and especially to biologists. Many missions have been successful there in the summer, but few have taken the time to go there all year to take an interest in the biodiversity it harbours. Thanks to the enormous support of the French government, we have the ambition to expand the frontiers of Arctic polar research over the next three decades,” Romain Troublé, the director-general of the Tara Océan Foundation, said in a press release.

Broad support for the project

On the occasion of the presentation of the French polar strategy, the French state thus confirmed its “immediate public financial support” within the framework of the future investment plan for the construction of the Tara polar station. The regions of Brittany and Normandy are also among the partners in this project, which is supported by Dr Frederik Paulsen, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and Explorations de Monaco, and several companies, including Capgemini Engineering, Véolia Foundation, BNP Paribas, Bureau Veritas and Agnès Troublé.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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