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When the question of responsibility is considered on a global scale, some experts blame the oil industry and its lobby. This is the case of the Center for International Environmental Law CIEL whose recent report states that plastic manufacturers were aware of the problems caused by their products as early as the s. But a part of the plastic industry continues to deny the facts, fighting regulations and undermining proposed solutions.

Even worse, they put the blame on consumers. At the Tara Expeditions Foundation, through our actions carried out since , we strive to highlight the scientific facts, the questions and sometimes even the doubts so necessary to challenge accepted ideas. Sharing this mindset means bringing concrete elements to discussions with citizens, entrepreneurs and policy makers. Today we support the implementation of an international treaty that would reduce this plastic crisis. It seems to us essential to constrain and regulate the impact of plastic throughout the life cycle of products, from their production to the pollution of our oceans.

An unusual circumstance: the schooner must change route. On board, the Captain downloads new nautical charts thanks to the satellite connection.

Locks & Gates by J.L. Lawson

On land, the logistics team is modifying the dates and the port of entry for the next team of scientists to come aboard. The reason for this last minute change?


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The Indonesian government has refused us permission to do sampling in its territorial waters. Inquiring about the safety of the crew on a route sometimes subject to piracy. Setting up adequate logistics to accommodate a rotation of 70 scientists and 6 crew members constantly. Contacting representatives of 30 countries to present the project.

Requesting permission to collect samples. So, Tara will not go to the Maluku archipelago as planned. The ability to adapt is undeniably one of the major strengths of the project. Then Tara will leave the country immediately, headed for Palau where she is expected. Another specific mission conducted by the team from Monaco will happen later, from January All hope to discover new species during repeated underwater explorations in 4 major regions of Kimbe Bay Papua New Guinea.

Some of the scientists hope to reveal the secrets of chemical interactions between species; others would like to discover new molecules useful in human health. Whatever their specialty, they are already busy under water but also on board, in front of a lab bench or a gene sequencer. Probably many of the species here are still unknown.

We will inventory the little-studied groups such as hydrozoans, brittle stars and sponges. At the introductory meeting that opened this new scientific chapter, Emilie pointed out the exploration zones on a map including Kimbe, Kapepa and Restorf Islands.


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Everyone then discussed the reasons for their presence on the schooner. Observations show that Millepora platyphylla protects itself quite well from competitors for space. We want to understand the influence of its neighbors on the defense molecules produced by this species. In the marine environment, an intense chemical warfare is going on at all times. To fight against competitors, predators or colonizers, Millepora releases a whole bunch of molecules to protect themselves, creating a chemical shield of sorts! By looking more closely at only the cnidarian group which includes corals, hydrozoans and jellyfish, 9, species have been catalogued, but no global estimate has been made for cnidarians.

The oceans have not finished revealing their riches to contemporary explorers. Scheffers, et al. The 4 of us have just crossed the globe by plane to relay disembarking teammates. After a somewhat tumultuous departure on Friday at , the evening of a soccer match that made the north of Paris as congested as a Cairo crossroads in daytime, I boarded a flight from Paris to Dubai.

After settling in on the first plane, a Airbus A, I take the full measure of the journey that awaits me: 4 flights and nearly 15, km to go. According to some scientists, it was here that everything may have started. Corals most likely spread to the rest of the planet from this place. The list of potential topics to deal with in writing or video runs in my head. The first that comes to my mind is largely inspired by the number of single-use disposables on the plane.

I think of the figures that will appear in a future article dedicated to plastic pollution. Even though I hold out my cup for a refill, the stewardesses systematically hand me a new cup, already full. And when, driven by my ecological instinct, I ask about recycling, they answer with a surprised look and a negative nod of the head.

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Locks & Gates

The 4th plane, operated by the only local airline, has only 36 seats. I scrutinize the interior of the old plane, which seems to have already exceeded its quota of flying hours. But sleepiness has the best of my worries. An hour later, a hand on my shoulder wakes me gently from sleep.

This one has a technical problem. I gather my belongings and head for plane number 4b.

The Waiting

He answered me! To have come all this way and see nothing of the Papuan territory would have been rather disappointing. Outside my porthole, rows of palm trees have replaced a thick forest and we land safely. Paris is only an old memory. In a couple of hours the 2 masts of the schooner will stand before me, in a bay at the end of the world. Tuesday, November 14 at local time Tara arrived a few kilometers from Kimbe, capital of the province of Western New Britain.

Kimbe Bay — km wide and 60km long — is considered the heart of the Coral Triangle. A succession of volcanoes, some still active — islands like boats with hulls of lava rock above which flourishes lush, tropical vegetation. During the last hours of sailing, the landscape kept telling us we were getting closer to the equator and Indonesia. Anchored tonight in a sheltered spot, Tara is only about 5 degrees south of the line separating our blue planet into 2 hemispheres.

This heart of the Coral Triangle is also the place of origin of all corals. Ocean currents did the rest by scattering the mother stock. A first scouting and sampling dive has already taken place at the entrance to Kimbe Bay. Will Kimbe Bay corals offer us new elements to better understand why these colonies are resistant to such temperatures, linked to intense surrounding volcanic activity? We are in a region with more than a hundred volcanoes visible from the boat. Fumaroles are still escaping from the Vulcan caldera, with the strong smell of sulfur.

Here coral lives in waters whose temperatures are influenced by a volcanic environment where thermal stresses combine. The upcoming dives in the context of the Tara Pacific expedition promise to be very exciting. After leaving the acidification study site, the Taranauts penetrated further into Papuan territory, sailing northeast overnight to the Egum Atoll.

On the island of Yanaba, a formal meeting was organized amidst the traditional huts on stilts overlooking the lagoon. Such meetings, indispensable for continuing our sampling, remind us of the necessity of taking time to listen and talk to each other. We arrived early this morning in the small, shallow pass of Egum Atoll.

We anchored near the village of Yanaba Island. A well-crafted canoe approached us, maneuvered with dexterity by the customary chief Andrew, a mature man with a lively expression. He invited us to meet his community at the end of their Sunday religious service, to explain our visit to the atoll.

Children were observing us with mischievous looks. Already questions were being asked and trust began to develop. Once the head of the council different from the tribal chief , the magistrate and the school principal joined us, we could present the Tara Pacific expedition and explain why we had chosen to come to this particular island.

An experienced speaker, calm and self-confident, Alfred did a great job of explaining the work we wanted to do here. About people live in autonomy on the 2 inhabited islands of the atoll. These islanders are excellent sailors. It takes them 2 days to reach Alotau, the capital of the province. The council deliberated and after they negotiated fees, we were authorized to take coral samples from their waters. We then toured the very well-organized beachfront village, and visited the school where we distributed some supplies and Tara Junior magazines to the teachers.

Nearby, 2 huts in ruin — a medical clinic and a post office — have been closed for almost 10 years. Where is the state???