September 5, 2010

French Yacht Sets Sail To Collect Data On Climate Change

On Sunday, the French yacht Tara will leave on its second leg of a three-year voyage across the world's oceans to try and collect data on the effects of climate change on microorganisms.

The 118-foot boat will depart from Cape Town to head across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans for New Zealand next August as part of a 93,750-mile journey.

"Sunday ... will be the birthday of the Tara Oceans project because it's the beginning of the second year of the project," said captain Olivier Marien.

The boat will sail to Ascension Island before heading for Brazil, Argentina and further south to Antarctica.

The crew is collecting samples to send to laboratories each month to chart a baseline for future climate studies.

"We know now that the planet is changing, and the ocean is changing, and we expect much from the ocean to counterbalance what the humans are doing on the planet," Philippe Koubbi, the chief scientist on board told AFP.

"We know that some of the tiny plankton are threatened...and we know that tiny animals or these tiny plants are very very important in controlling the balance in the ocean."

Over 100 scientists are involved in the project, which contains a bio-bank that is being created.

Plankton ecosystems are not well known, but the microorganisms absorb half of the world's carbon production and produce as much oxygen as forests.

"This is really what this expedition is really about - is really to look at this planktonic life which is really in the open ocean, really controlling everything," Koubbi told AFP.

The yacht will sail to Chile, Easter Island, the Galapagos Islands, the Clipperton Islands, the Marquesas Islands and Papeete next year.

The first leg of the expedition crossed the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Red Sea, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean.


On the Net: