Hespérides Ends Her XXV Antarctic Campaign

April 22, 2020 (Google Translation) – The oceanographic research vessel (BIO) “Hespérides” has called this morning at its base port in the Arsenal of Cartagena, after concluding its XXV Antarctic Campaign. The ship returns 161 days after leaving that same port, and after a 42-day period of isolation on board since the last time its crew was able to set foot in Punta Arenas (Chile) on March 11.

The ship began its commission on November 13, 2019 with destination Montevideo (Uruguay), where it arrived on December 4. There, in addition to carrying out logistical loading of food, fuel and scientific material in collaboration with the Uruguayan polar program, the participation via videoconference took place in the COP 25 event on climate change.

He then sailed to the port of Punta Arenas (Chile), arriving on December 13. There he delivered the donations (more than three tons of food, toys, clothing and various hygiene materials) collected for the solidarity project “Hogar Miraflores”. The first 35 technicians from the UTM (CSIC Marine Technology Unit) and personnel from the Spanish Army also embarked, which would open the Antarctic bases “Juan Carlos I” on Livingston Island and “Gabriel de Castilla” on Deception Island.

During the first of the eight crossings of the Sea of ​​Sickles of this campaign, the BIO “Hespérides” participated in the search device for the remains of the C-130 Hercules damaged on December 9 in those waters (Operation “Paso Drake”, from the Chilean Air Force). After completing the opening of the Spanish Antarctic bases, he sailed on demand from the port of Ushuaia (Argentina).

Throughout the month of January, the ship spent 32 days of uninterrupted sea in Antarctic waters, carrying out the activities of the TASMANDRAKE-POWELL project of the Andalusian Institute of Earth Sciences (CSIC). This project studies the main tectonic and oceanographic events that influenced the development of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and its relationship with paleoclimatic and ice cap evolution.

After surveying the researchers and technicians in Ushuaia, during the month of February the main project carried out on board was BRAVOSEIS of the University of Granada, consisting of the seismological study of the underwater volcanoes of the Bransfield Strait. However, this was not the only project that has been developed in those 28 days at sea, combining with five more. In addition to the aforementioned POWELL, researchers from ANTECO (taxonomic research and multi-scale evaluation of the origin, distribution and expansion potential of invading springtails in Antarctica) from the Autonomous Universities of Madrid and Rey Juan Carlos worked on the ship; GEO2-OCEAN (study of the geodynamic specificities of the Byers Peninsula with respect to Livingston Island and other adjacent islands of the archipelago of the South Shetlands) of the University of Cádiz; GALILEO-IHM 5 (validation of the signal received from the satellites of the Galileo constellation in high latitudes) of the General Directorate of Armament and Material –DGAM- and the Hydrographic Institute of the Navy –IHM-; TARDÏGRADOS (a study on tardigrades, in their fourth year of work in Antarctica) from the Technological University of Bolívar, Colombia; and ANTARPLAST (study of measurement of abundance and distribution of microplastics in the Antarctic peninsula) of the Uruguayan Polar Program. During this period the ship reached the southernmost latitude of the campaign: 64 GALILEO-IHM 5 (validation of the signal received from the satellites of the Galileo constellation in high latitudes) of the General Directorate of Armament and Material –DGAM- and the Hydrographic Institute of the Navy –IHM-; TARDÏGRADOS (a study on tardigrades, in their fourth year of work in Antarctica) from the Technological University of Bolívar, Colombia; and ANTARPLAST (study of measurement of abundance and distribution of microplastics in the Antarctic peninsula) of the Uruguayan Polar Program. During this period the ship reached the southernmost latitude of the campaign: 64 GALILEO-IHM 5 (validation of the signal received from the satellites of the Galileo constellation in high latitudes) of the General Directorate of Armament and Material –DGAM- and the Hydrographic Institute of the Navy –IHM-; TARDÏGRADOS (a study on tardigrades, in their fourth year of work in Antarctica) from the Technological University of Bolívar, Colombia; and ANTARPLAST (study of measurement of abundance and distribution of microplastics in the Antarctic peninsula) of the Uruguayan Polar Program. During this period the ship reached the southernmost latitude of the campaign: 64 in his fourth year of work in Antarctica) of the Technological University of Bolívar, Colombia; and ANTARPLAST (study of measurement of abundance and distribution of microplastics in the Antarctic peninsula) of the Uruguayan Polar Program. During this period the ship reached the southernmost latitude of the campaign: 64 in his fourth year of work in Antarctica) of the Technological University of Bolívar, Colombia; and ANTARPLAST (study of measurement of abundance and distribution of microplastics in the Antarctic peninsula) of the Uruguayan Polar Program. During this period the ship reached the southernmost latitude of the campaign: 64or South.

On March 12, during its transit to Antarctica for the closure of the Spanish Antarctic bases, and in view of the pandemic, the ship was ordered to proceed with said closure as quickly as possible and to evacuate as soon as possible back to national territory to the 37 people who were still in these bases. The first attempt at the return route, from Ushuaia via Buenos Aires, was not possible due to the scenario of border closures, cancellation of domestic flights and the establishment of quarantines in Argentina.

This was done, after a brief technical stopover in Ushuaia, heading north on demand first from Santos (Brazil), and finally from Montevideo (Uruguay), where only the 37 passengers could disembark to be repatriated coinciding with a special Iberia flight managed from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Next, the ship began its transit back to the base port, in Cartagena.

This has turned out to be an atypical end to the campaign, although all the scientific objectives of the polar program had been completed by the time the closure of the bases needed to be brought forward by a week compared to what was expected due to the pandemic. Thus, of the ten projects planned to be carried out on board the ship, only one, the SAGA1 project that was to be developed in the waters of the South Atlantic between mid-April and mid-May, could not be carried out due to the impossibility of incorporating into Rio de Janeiro to the research and technical staff planned.

During this Antarctic campaign, we have collaborated with the polar programs of Argentina, Bulgaria, Chile, Czechoslovakia, South Korea, Ecuador, Peru, Portugal and Uruguay. On board, 207 people of 18 nationalities have been supported. In total, 25,073 nautical miles (46,435 km) have been sailed, a distance equivalent to more than one trip around the world, in a period of 5 months and 9 days, and spread over 147 voyages.

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