Tribute to a Lord of the Ice
With a paw up in the air, a tilted head, hopping about, that is how Zagrey greeted us in the morning, always even tempered and with a kindness second to none even when Ticksy pinched his place… He was our guardian on the ice field, faithful companion, nearly with a human look in his eyes. This Siberian “White Fang” would bark to point out the presence of bears, seals or cracks in the ice. This tireless woofer protected us against hazardous encounters in the cold of the polar night. During the drift, he became our floe wanderer, going from here to there and teaching the young Ticksy the job of camp guard.
Zagrey, this old 11-year old dog, joined the exhibition with Etienne Bourgois in September 2006 in the town of Tiksy. This pure breed Yakut dog from Khatanga near the eastern point of Taymiria, was a descendant of a renowned Yakut leika (his father had been filmed in a Russian television series), and had been trained to protect man from bears. Having suffered an injury to one of his paws by one of these whilst defending our polar base, we had to stitch up his wound with the help of the doctor. Zagrey often found himself on the wrong side of the cracks, and we then had to rescue him. His kindness, his gentleness towards mankind made him a full member of our team. I recall moments when the blizzard blew strongly and he was sleeping in the wind engulfing the Tara always on the alert, letting himself be slowly snowed in albeit restlessly watching over our safety. When the bears got too close, we had to tie him up because he could chase them for miles to force them away from our camp. When our hands got cold, his thick white and grey fur was the best warmer in the Arctic.
At the end of the expedition, and while we passed through Spitsbergen, we left him with Eric and France on “Vagabond” to spend his last years in well-deserved retirement in the immaculate world of ice and snow where he had always lived. This companion, half dog and half wolf from the large Siberian areas, was subject to seasickness and would, whilst sailing, find refuge in the small bridge of the Tara, leaving little room for the man on watch.
I saw him again, and we spent four months together during this winter onboard “Vagabond” in the Ingledfield bay. He immediately recognised us, and became a very close companion for my son Nael, who entrusted him to warn us when Father Christmas came around. When we went out testing the ice or wandering on the ice bank, I enjoyed his reassuring and expert presence as an ice field dog. When we parted in January last, I promised him that we would meet again. However, yesterday on board Vagabond, Eric found near the kennel a bear against which Zagrey, tied up, could not defend himself. He now rests near an iceberg, and will drift away this coming Summer towards dogs’ world.
In Russian, Zagrey means “keep me warm”, and it is true that, from a mental point of view, his presence always reassured us during the drift. Anyone who ever knew him is aware of the total dedication of this dog to mankind.
To Zaguou, Lord of these wild lands where the fight for survival is merciless.
Thank you for having been with us and protecting us.
Never shall we forget you.
Hervé Bourmaud, Tara Captain
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Chronicle of the Arctic
Christian de Marliave, scientific coordinator of the Tara Arctic expedition and French specialist of the poles, weighs the achievements of the International Polar Year, which ended last month.
Two years after the official launching of API 2007-2009, the ICSU (International Council for Science) and the OMM (Organisation Mondiale de Météorologie: World Meteorology Organisation) organised on 24 and 25 February 2009 in Geneva a closing ceremony. David Carlson, API manager, summed up the obtained progresses by this joint effort in practically all the fields linked to the cryosphere.
However, he expressed sorrow that the scientific community did not endeavour to group together the collected observations in an ample data bank accessible to all scientists. In view of the critical changes that the polar regions and in particular the Arctic are being subjected, several research programmes that started during the course of these 2 years (including the Damocles programme) shall continue beyond API’s official closing date.
On occasion of this ceremony, ICSU and OMM are publishing a report entitled "State of the polar research", brushing a table of the researches developed in the course of these two years. See
http://188.8.131.52/images/uploads/IPY_State_of_Polar_Research_FR_web.pdf in French
http://184.108.40.206/images/uploads/IPY_State_of_Polar_Research_EN_web.pdf in English
On the French side, let us welcome the appointment on 18 March of Michel Rocard as an ambassador of France leading the international negotiations related to the Arctic and Antarctic poles. We remind that in 1989, when he was French Prime Minister, his decision of supporting Australia in refusing to sign the Wellington convention, which would have controlled by regulations the mineral exploitation in Antarctica, resulted in bringing about two years later the signature of the Madrid treaty, protecting the white continent from any exploitation for a period of 50 years.
It is a task no less difficult that awaits him for trying to rally the countries concerned by the Arctic to a system of governance satisfying the largest number, in particular the 5 coastal countries (Russia, Canada, USA, Denmark and Norway). Proof of this is Russia’s decision to militarise the Arctic and make it an important strategic base starting from 2020, while the exploitation of the natural resources is envisaged to start within 2015.
Great interest arises on the expected verdict by the Commission on the limits of the continental platform, which must shortly make a ruling on the Russian claim in the Arctic.
On 20 March, the representatives of the 5 coastal countries met at Tromso to closely examine the survival of the polar bear. It is reminded that the polar bear population is estimated to be 22,000 individuals and that the polar bear is still being hunted by the autochthonous populations in Canada, Alaska, and Greenland (about 700 bears killed every year). No drastic decisions followed this meeting, other than a unanimous recognition to the effect that the climatic change is the main threat for the survival of the species. Not much of an accomplishment!