March 8, 2021: The last day

At 9h20 this morning, the RV Marion-Dufresne makes its grand entrance into the West Port of Reunion Island. Slightly tricky maneuver, neither the entrance nor the dock are very wide. Slowly, the quay gets closer.  Once connected to the shore, the loop is complete. A current of emotions, hugs, the last ones before returning to the masks and to the famous distancing…and without forgetting to get tested COVID-19 because explaining to Air France (evening flight 671) that you are COVID-free because you have been 2 months at sea might not be convincing…

No time to get sentimental, however: 28 tons of material has to be unloaded in crammed containers; chemical waste has to be unloaded, dangerous substances have to be repatriated, biological samples have to be transported at -20°C and -80°C, borrowed material has to be returned to Germany, Canada, South Africa… In all, 18 different destinations with their own individual batch of complexity. And all this in a very short space of time, because a nasty tropical depression delayed our entry into the port by 24 hours (scheduled for the 7th), and reduced the demobilization by the same amount. The ballet of cranes and trucks was thus intense, Hélène, Martin, François and the crew running from one deck to the other with a walkie-talkie in hand while Catherine recovered the last missing information from those present in order to have all the necessary material to move forward on the cruise report. The bad joke of this “express demobilization”: a deliveryman from a famous transport company called us to tell us that he had come to collect 2 parcels from Marion Dufresne. Unable to find him on the quay, he was in fact in the town of Le Port in Ariège (Mainland France)… So, we had to find another solution so that these two coolers filled with samples could return to the United States, one hour before our departure…

At 6PM, labs and cabins empty, command post cleaned, bags and suitcases packed, waiting a little feverishly for the COVID-19 test result. Then the bus on the platform, the descent of the accommodation ladder, the disembarkation certificate to be signed, it’s over. Tears and hugs. Promises to see each other again soon. Highway to the airport for some colleagues, objective lagoon for a few days of decompression for others. For our 5 colleagues waiting for a return flight, the happiness of a drink on the quay shared with the crew, who could finally drink a well-deserved drink after two months without it. 

What more can we say: a huge thank you to all of you! These two months with you were magical, intense, and fill of great scientific and human richness!

The scientific team members descending the accommodation ladder and signing the disembarkation certificate. The SWINGS cruise is over. @ Wen-Hsuan Liao
 Last view of RV Marion Dufresne. @Coraline Leseurre

Authors: Catherine Jeandel (CNRS, LEGOS, Toulouse) et Hélène Planquette (CNRS, LEMAR, Brest)

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