The research vessel ‘Hespérides’ returns to Cartagena after finishing its scientific mission in the Antarctic.

The research vessel 'Hespérides' returns to Cartagena after finishing its scientific mission in the Antarctic
The oceanographic research vessel (BIO) ‘Hespérides’ has returned to its base at the Cartagena Arsenal, thus bringing its 27th Antarctic Campaign to a close.

During the morning of Saturday 20 May, the oceanographic research vessel (BIO) ‘Hespérides’ returned to its base at the Cartagena Arsenal, thus bringing its XXVII Antarctic Campaign to a close.

This deployment began on 11 November and, since then, the ship has travelled more than 26,000 nautical miles – a distance equivalent to one round-the-world trip – carrying out a series of multidisciplinary scientific research projects in the Atlantic Ocean and, above all, in the waters of the Southern Ocean below the 60º S parallel, where it has combined its purely scientific missions with logistical tasks in support of the Spanish Antarctic Bases (BAEs).

In these 190 days of deployment, the ship has called at the South American ports of Mar del Plata and Ushuaia (Argentina), Punta Arenas (Chile) and Montevideo (Uruguay), before making a final stop in Funchal (Portugal) before returning to Cartagena.

The work of the Navy’s oceanographic vessel on the frozen continent has been part of the 36th Spanish Antarctic Campaign, an investment in R&D&I that is the result of the cooperation of different ministries, universities and public and private scientific institutions.

All these activities are coordinated by the Ministry of Science and Innovation through the Spanish Polar Committee (SPC).

After leaving Cartagena on 11 November and making a stopover for logistical reasons in Mar del Plata, the Hespérides arrived in Punta Arenas to pick up the crews of the BAEs ‘Juan Carlos I’ and ‘Gabriel de Castilla’, belonging, respectively, to the CSIC and the Spanish Army.

With them on board, the ship set course for Antarctica to open both stations and begin the scientific projects scheduled for the southern summer. Subsequently, the ship would combine its eminently scientific activity with the logistical tasks that provide both scientific bases with personnel, material and all the supplies necessary for their operation.

The scientific projects on board in Antarctica took place between January and March. Firstly, a combined multidisciplinary scientific campaign was carried out, which integrated five research projects belonging to different national and foreign universities and institutes.

The ‘Hespérides’ travelled along the entire western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula as far as Margarita Bay, further south of the Antarctic Circle.

Subsequently, between February and March, it carried out the ‘Polar Change’ project, led by the CSIC and involving a multinational group of researchers with the aim of analysing all the processes associated with the water and glaciological cycle in the Antarctic, in the waters of the Bellingshausen Sea and the Weddell Sea.

The activity in the Antarctic ended during the second half of March, when the Hespérides closed both BAEs and repatriated its crews via Ushuaia (Argentina), thus concluding the Spanish Antarctic Campaign.

Outside Antarctica, the ship carried out SAGA REC, the last project of this deployment in Atlantic waters between Montevideo (Uruguay) and Funchal (Portugal). After its conclusion, the Hespérides began its return to its base in Cartagena.

In total, the ship has conducted seven research projects on board, carried out six periods of logistical support to BAEs and received on board 193 scientists belonging to 20 different nationalities in its endeavours.

The ‘Hespérides’, classified as a Singular Scientific and Technical Infrastructure (ICTS), is the only Spanish oceanographic vessel designed to carry out multidisciplinary scientific research in all the seas and oceans of the planet.

It has a crew of 57 people, under the command of frigate captain Rafael Aguirre Pastor, and can accommodate up to 37 scientists and technicians. It has a length of 82.5 metres and a displacement of 2,830 tonnes when fully loaded.

Its range is 12,000 miles at 12 knots, and it can operate for up to 60 days without the need for refuelling. It has a total of 11 equipped laboratories, spread over more than 350 m2 dedicated exclusively to research.

The vessel is built with a high-strength steel hull, with a reinforced keel for operation in ice. It is certified as a class “C” polar vessel by the International Maritime Organisation.

The Navy’s oceanographic vessel is part of the Maritime Action Force (FAM) which, within the Fleet, is responsible for ensuring permanent cooperation with the various government bodies with responsibilities in the maritime field, which is the Navy’s contribution to State Action at Sea.

This ship collaborates closely in the scientific management of its campaigns with the Ministry of Science and Innovation, contributing to State action through the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).

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