In the 1rst oceanographic class
Here we are. After months of preparation, the Indian Ocean expedition is taking shape. The ship leaves the port of Cape Town, full of promises of science, discoveries and encounters. I am a member of the Indian Ocean Expedition advisory committee, which gives me the chance to be on board the S.A. Agulhas II for its initial transit from the port of Cape Town to Mauritius. This is a way to get in touch with the expedition, to share what will be its daily base for a month and a half of observations, sampling, measurements and sample conditioning. The spectrum of study is quite wide and the space to be studied is exceptional.
I reread the Baseline study, the figures and descriptions make my head spin: Aldabra, Saya y Malha, such little-known immensities, singularities in the ocean, an oceanographer’s dream and easy prey for irrational exploitation. The challenge of knowledge and the challenge of governance are linked. The gamble taken by the Seychelles and Mauritius, who have requested and obtained joint jurisdiction over the Mascarene continental shelf, is a remarkable initiative, commensurate with the stakes. It deserves multiple contributions. The expedition’s ambition is to make its own.
I am only an observer on board. To observe what? The campaign has not yet begun, the scientists and students will be embarking on Mauritius and Reunion. Don’t be fooled, there is already a lot to see. The ship and its crew, even in the intimacy of the rescue briefing, the snooping on the technical deck and in the laboratories, the conviviality of the galley, the phlegm of the doctor. And the leadership of the ‘Master The final technical preparations are made at sea: satellite communication, ROV testing. What can I say, if not the feeling of seriousness and technicality that this experience inspires in me? There is no doubt that the stakes of the expedition are high, we are in first class oceanography.
The Monaco Explorations team is on board and is busy. Details of daily life to be agreed with the ship, material organisation of embarkations and departures, protocol and visits to ports of call, communication, no detail must escape them. It is the scientists’ environment that must be perfected and also the expedition’s connection with the human societies concerned and the political authorities.
And then there is Cape Town. A destination fantasized by the images of the tabular mountain and the obsession of the 3 capes of the great maritime adventures. No disappointment, the mountain is there, the port is alive, sea lions and birds are omnipresent. One surprise, however, is the international armada of fishing vessels that are there: Norway, Japan, China, South Korea, Ukraine, Russia… In numbers and sizes that impress.
Once at sea the experience continues, with petrels and albatrosses permanently around the ship, a whale blowhole seen in the distance, the sea stirring and glistening in a hunting scene. A wink to the south before the tropical waters.
Member of the expedition’s organising committee, he is the director-delegate for maritime planning and major projects at the Risk-Water-Sea Technical Directorate of Cerema, a public expert establishment under the supervision of the French Ministry of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion.