The first Belgica
Originally built for whaling, the ship was purchased by Adrien de Gerlache for the Belgian Antarctic Expedition in 1896 and refitted. He renamed the ship SY Belgica and left for Antarctica on 16 August 1897 from Antwerp, Belgium.
Expedition members included Roald Amundsen, who later led the first successful expedition to the South Pole, and Frederick Cook, the expedition's surgeon who would later claim to be the first to reach the North Pole.
The ship and her crew became the first to spend winter on the Antarctic when she became stuck in the ice on 28 February 1898. Only 13 months later, after clearing a canal, did the crew manage to free the ship and return to Antwerp, Belgium on 5 November 1899.
The current Belgica is a research vessel owned by the Belgian government and operated on their behalf by the Management Unit of the North Sea Mathematical Models (MUMM). The Belgian Naval Component provides the crew.
The ship was commissioned in 1984 by Her Majesty Queen Fabiola. She measures 50.90 m(L) x 10.00 m (W) x 5.70 (H). Gross/net registered tonnage is 765t/232t.
Her main purpose is to monitor the North Sea marine environment by collecting all sorts of data on the biological, chemical, physical, geological and hydrodynamic processes which take place there. The ship operates as a fully equipped laboratory with Belgian university / scientific institute researchers analysing the collected materials.
The ship also has an important task in monitoring the North Sea in case of a large oil spills. She feeds the data back to the MUMM, which will calculate the probable extent and impact of the spill on the environment.
- Cook, Frederick A. (1900). Through The First Antarctic Night 1898-1899: A Narrative Of The Voyage Of The "Belgica" Among Newly Discovered Lands And Over An Unknown Sea About The South Pole. New York: Doubleday & McClure Co.. http://books.google.com/books?id=Gj8ZAAAAYAAJ. Retrieved 2009-08-15.