Spanish research ship ‘Hespérides’ starts second phase of Antarctic campaign

The Spanish Navy-operated polar research ship B.I.O. Hespérides has started the second phase of the 31st Spanish Antarctic Campaign after a three and a half-month voyage from her homeport in Cartagena.

After making port calls in Mar de Plata and Ushuaia, the ship proceeded towards the Antarctic continent to help open the Spanish bases ‘Juan Carlos I’ and ‘Gabriel de Castilla’.

This included disembarking more than 60 tons of material including food supplies, vehicles, fuel and scientific material. 50 people –Army servicemen, scientists and technicians– were also distributed between both bases.

This first part of the campaign has been mainly logistic. Most of the material was loaded in Spain, while the scientific personnel embarked in Ushuaia.

The Hespérides is now proceeding towards the second stage of the campaign which started January 11 and will take place until March 12. During this period, scientists aboard the Hespérides will be conducting a series of scientific research projects in different parts of this southernmost area: a geophysics project in the South Orkney Islands, a seismology project in the Sea of Bransfield and different jobs related to the Spanish Galileo project which is led by the Spanish Navy Hydrographic Institute.

The Hespérides is the only Spanish ship purposely built for multidisciplinary scientific research in any sea or ocean, including Arctic and Antarctic Areas.

According to the navy, the Hespérides sails an average of 240 days a year, on many occasions prolonged voyages without port-calls. She has sailed as far south as latitude 71º in the Sea of Bellinghausen in 2003, and 80º 50’ north in 2007.

The voyage to the Antarctic Ocean from her home base in Cartagena normally takes a month. During her transit she carries out ad-hoc scientific campaigns and calls at different ports in Central America, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Santo Domingo or Uruguay.

The ship is equipped with two EM-120 multi-beam echo sounders, one for great depths (up to 11,000 meters) and another one for shallow waters (600 meters). Two EK-60 single-beam echo sounders for biomass measurement (both plankton and large species), and a seismic profiler (TOPAS) with sediment penetration capability providing density profiles. An acoustic Doppler which provides intensity and bearing profiles of sea currents depending on depth.

With the starboard telescopic crane the A-33 can launch a 6,000 m dipping sounding line to quantify conductivity, fluorine measurement and turbidity at different depths.

The poop deck can accommodate containers, labs, workshops or any additional scientific equipment.