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Escudo B.I.O. 'Hespérides'
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Photo 4. B.I.O. Hespérides

The Commanding Officer of the Oceanographic Research Ship “Hespérides” welcomes you “onboard” this Maritime Action unit with home port in Cartagena Naval Base.

LENGTH 82,5 meters
BEAM 14,3 m.
PROPULSION 2 propulsion electric engines (1,400 Kw each).
1 fixed pitch propeller (5 blades and 3 m. diameter).
1 fore propeller for side thrust.
2 diesel generators.
AIRCRAFT Hangar for light and medium helicopters (AB-212)
CREW 55 + 37 scientists
WEAPONS 1 MG + portable weapons.
SENSORS ARPA ECDIS surface and navigation radar (S band) 10 CM: 3050
ARPA ECDIS surface and navigation radar (X band) 3 CM: 9410
2 DGPS positioning systems
GMDSS Communications
SECOMSAT satellite communications system
MISCELLANEOUS 1 rescue craft.
2 polar craft
4 winches
2 folding cranes
2 cargo cranes
1 telescopic crane
500 m2 of scientific labs
1.000 m2 of cargo areas, storerooms, flight deck, holds, etc.

The “Hespérides” is the only Spanish ship purposely built for multidisciplinary scientific research in any sea or ocean, including Arctic and Antarctic Areas. She was the first Spanish ship to carry out Scientific Campaign in both Glacial Oceans in the same year, in the course of the UN International Polar Year of 2007.

The main activities of the ship are carried out during the Southern summers: scientific campaigns in the Antarctic and logistic support to the Spanish Bases in that continent: “Juan Carlos I” and “Gabriel de Castilla”.

During the rest of the year, the ship sails all over the world, mainly in the Mediterranean, Pacific and Atlantic oceans, providing support to all kind of scientific campaigns. During one month every year, the “Hespérides” is available for the Ministry of Defense, and more specifically for the Spanish Navy Hydrographic Institute, to collect marine data in the Spanish Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Platform.

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, acting as a true Ambassador of Spain.

Research projects are financed and managed by the R&D National Plan and the scientific management of the ship itself is responsibility of the Ministry of Science and Innovation.

Maintenance and exploitation of the scientific equipment of the ship is responsibility of the Marine Technology Unit of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) which provides the necessary technicians and scientists for the oceanographic campaigns, as well as the required scientific logistic support.

The “Hespérides” belongs to the Maritime Action Force under the command of an Admiral who reports to ALFLOT (Fleet Commander).

The home port is the Military Arsenal of Cartagena, one of the four most important Naval Bases of the Spanish Navy.

The A-33 has no offensive weapons since she was specifically designed for scientific operations. She has several storerooms for scientific equipment and materiel and different winches and cranes (telescopic, folding and cargo derricks).

The “Hespérides” has many laboratories for different research activities. They are located in the lower decks where the impact of sea movement is less perceptible. Researchers organize activities in hydrochemistry, ecology, oceanography, fishing, biology, meteorology and marine geo-science. There are also several cold storage facilities including a -20º C cold laboratory. There is also a wet laboratory with continuous and unpolluted sea water distribution and a dedicated lab for research works with radioactive isotopes and storage capacity since residual spills are forbidden south of parallel 60º and adjacent areas.

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.

The ship has a weather station and a computer network for scientific use and a TERASCAN System for data reception and processing from NOAA satellites (National Oceania and Atmospheric Administration) as well as other satellites: GOES, GMS, METEOSAT, FY, DMSP, ERS, SPOT and CZCS.

The origin of the oceanographic research ship “Hespérides” is to be found in the 2nd Week of Marine Studies held in Cartagena in November 1984 when the issue of building an indigenous Antarctic ship for oceanographic research was raised.

Construction began in BAZAN Shipyards on December 15th 1988. She was launched in March 1990, sponsored by Her Majesty the Queen, and delivered to the Spanish Navy in May 1991.

That same year the ship carried out her first Antarctic campaign. Since then, the ship has visited the South Pole every year except 2010-2011 when the ship took part in the 7-month “Malaspina Expedition” around the world. It was the first and –so far– only time the ship has circumnavigated the globe.

The ship’s name comes from Greek Mythology: the Hesperides were the nymphs that looked after the Tree of Science.

The crew consists of 55 people: 10 officers, 10 NCOs and 35 leading seamen and ratings. The ship can also accommodate up to 37 scientists and technicians.

Each year the ship takes part in the scientific campaign carried out in the Antarctic and also in different national campaigns in the EEZ. The A-33 sails an average of 9 months a year.

The ship collaborates with research operations organized by other Spanish scientific institutions in national and international waters.

Her schedule of activities is drafted annually and covers a two-year period. The ship is adapted to operate in difficult seas like the one in the Antarctic. The ship abides by the provisions of the law of the Antarctic Convention on “Prevention of Marine Pollution” and has an environmental pollution control plant with a sewage processing unit, incinerator, oily waters separator, and two waste disposal units, as well as pollution fighting measures in case of oil spills.

She has a diesel-electric propulsion system capable of providing the A-33 with enough power and endurance for prolonged periods, operating as icebreaker –if needed– during the summer ice in the Antarctic Ocean.

The ship has ample leisure facilities for the crew and scientists after their working days, watches and training exercises. The A-33 has a gym and sauna. The SACOMSAT terminal permits Internet and telephone communications with families. The library has more than 300 books.

In 2007, the ship participated in an Arctic campaign for the first time (ATOS 07).

In 2010-11 the “Hespérides” took part in the “Malaspina Expedition” around the world. During this 7-month cruise the ship collected more than 40,000 scientific samples.


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