The North Pole, our climate watchdog

Why is the sea ice disappearing so rapidly?

What are the dynamics of the annual melt according to the seasons?

To convince people of the urgency through a unique and original human adventure at the cutting edge of the collective climatic understanding.

To be able to predict major climatic events in Europe.

© Fondation Tara Océan

Having left Lorient, its home port in May 2006, the schooner Tara and its crew undertook a human adventure as risky as it was unprecedented since the Fram of Fridtjof Nansen more than a century earlier. The International Polar Year 2007-08 offered an opportunity to invest in polar research, genuine watchdogs for climate change to come. For nearly 500 days, or two polar nights and one day each six months long, in temperatures down to -25 °C, the schooner crossed the Glacial Arctic Ocean, drifting with the sea ice. At an average speed of 10 km per day, the eleven men and women at the farthest north of all humanity, carried out readings and measurements from a depth of 3,500 m to an altitude of 2,000 m with the aim of: feeding the IPCC models to try to predict major climatic events in Europe.

Map Mission Tara Arctic

In day-to-day life

Willing prisoners of the sea ice

Although the schooner was originally designed for this polar drift by architects Olivier Petit, Luc Bouvet and engineer Michel Franco, we never got the chance to test the accuracy of the calculations against the many assaults of the sea ice. The first time was a moment of truth…

  • 507days of expedition in the cold

  • 5,200 kmcovered on the planet

  • 1,500press articles

  • 4times faster than the Fram in 1893

Etienne Bourgois President of Fondation Tara Océan

It was an incredible experience, unlike any other. The first members of the expedition spent eight months on board, some spent more than a year. Just one seaman, Grant, spent all 507 days on board.

Climate changes are altering this region at a vertiginous speed. These phenomena have consequences, not only on the lives of the five million people who live within the Arctic Circle, but also on the entire world, and necessitate an urgent global response.


The secrets of the accelerated melting of the sea ice

To be there with time
The fact that we had been on the ice, in the ice and with the ice for over a year, enabled us to put our finger on the major aspects of its seasonal cycle via new simultaneous surveys of the three elements which are the atmosphere, the ocean and the sea ice.

The importance of the albedo
We were also able to understand the effects of the albedo, that fraction of solar energy reflected into space, compared to other oceanic and atmospheric phenomena which transfer a large amount of heat from the equator towards the poles, both in summer and in winter.

Lack of cold in winter
We also noticed that the ice was weakened much more in winter. Of course, the melting process takes place in summer, but the massive retreats of ice that we observe are much more associated with the processes of winter. Because winters are much less harsh than before, less cold produces less ice which melts more easily with the return of the summer sun.

© Fondation Tara Océan

Scientific publications


Exploring Arctic transpolar drift during dramatic sea ice retreat.

Gascard, J.-C., E. Bourgois, H. Bourmaud, B. et al.

Tara Arctic


Melt pond formation and temporal evolution at drifting station Tara during summer 2007

Sankelo, P., Haapala, J.,Heiler, I. and E. Rinne.

Tara Arctic
Tara Arctic
Tara Arctic
Tara Arctic
Tara Arctic


Validation of atmospheric reanalyzes over the central Arctic Ocean

Jakobson, E., T. Vihma, T. Palo, L.et al.

Tara Arctic


Low-level jet characteristics over the Arctic Ocean in spring and summer.

Jakobson, L., T. Vihma, E. Jakobson, T. et al.

Tara Arctic


Linking the effective thermal conductivity of snow to its shear strength and density

Florent Domine, Josué Bock, Samuel Morin, et al.

Tara Arctic


Sea-ice thickness measurement based on the dispersion of ice swell.

David Marsan, Jerome Weiss, Eric Larose, et al.

Tara Arctic
Tara Arctic
Tara Arctic
Tara Arctic

The Team

A team at the heart of the adventure

On the ice, a team of mariners, engineers from the foundation and scientists coordinated by the CNRS and the University of the Sorbonne, from twelve countries.

Etienne Bourgois - Président de la Fondation Tara Océan

Etienne Bourgois

Director of the expedition, co-founder of Fondation Tara Océan

Jean-Claude Gascard

Scientific director of Tara Arctic, Research director, CNRS

Immerse in the expedition

Culture Ocean

Trapped in the ice

Trapped in the ice

Discover the account of Marion Lauters, student and quartermaster on Tara during Arctic drift..

All our media
Expedition Tara Pacific, Escale à Wallis

Tara Pacific

The biodiversity of coral reefs in the face of climate change

Tara mission Microbiomes

Mission Microbiomes

Understanding the invisible people of the Ocean to preserve our future

Our partners

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