On Tuesday afternoon, TARA arrived to Beirut’s port for a stay that will last a week. On Saturday afternoon, I visited through a B2 scouts trip the TARA Mediterranean Expedition of 2014.
TARA is a 25 year-old scientific ship which collects samples and data from oceans and seas. It was originally made for the arctic sails and has carried several missions in Antarctica since. Its aluminum-based structure allows it to easily travel the snow and ice, and the most recent trip to the arctic had been TARA Arctic, an expedition between 2006 and 2008 out of which over two dozen scientific publications resulted. Research director Jean-Claude Gascard has repeatedly emphasized on the importance of the findings of this trip stating that he “wouldn’t be surprised if people are still publishing works based on [that] data ten years from now.” Another trip, TARA Oceans, which took place between 2009 and 2012, bought back about 28,000 samples which helped in the development of research and analysis regarding bacterial diversity and new species of coral.
Currently, the 2014 expedition’s mission is to accomplish scientific studies regarding plastic pollution and to promote awareness of environmental challenges in the Mediterranean region. The accumulation of plastic has long been a challenge to nature, and we still know little about the role and destiny of that plastic to be able to predict the impact it could have on man and the oceans. The expedition will be seven months long and cover 22 stops.
The trip was educational, recreational, and interesting. However, what interested me most was the TARA expedition’s story, for it shows once again that it only needs few people and a passion to start something that makes a difference. The TARA educational and scientific expeditions that started in 2003 carry a tale of a mother and son who shared their passion for the ocean, the planet and the people. The ship was built 1989, and after serving for years, was bought by Agnès B. and Étienne Bourgois. The story, told by Agnès Trouble, goes as follows:
“The ship began her days as the ‘Antarctica’. She was built by Jean-Louis Étienne and the naval architects Luc Bouvet and Olivier Petit. Later she became the Sea master under Sir Peter Blake who sadly died aboard. Further down the line Sir Peter’s wife, Lady Blake, showed great interest in my son Étienne’s dream of conducting polar and scientific expeditions… In 2003, Étienne and I decided to buy the boat to carry out environmental work. My contribution is the Agnès B. endowment fund which co-finances, alongside other vital partners, the Tara and her expeditions.”
So the TARA remains one ship whose voice has reached many countries and organizations, and whose mission has been admired by numerous people, from UN SG Ban Ki-Moon who said that the TARA is “an example to be followed within the scientific community,” to Prince Albert II of Monaco who commented that “the TARA teaches us how to love the sea,” to countless photographers, journalists, students, and a bunch of marine B2 scouts who praised the ship and its expeditions even more.
The TARA expedition at Zeitouny Bay ends on the 12th of August, and so does the exhibition “Our Planet Ocean” located in the room beside Beirut Yacht Club.