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Dutch Antarctica-bound labs named after 1598 ships

Legacy Dirck Gerritsz remembered

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

ROTTERDAM - The plan for a Dutch research facility in Antarctica is one step closer to realization. Three mobile labs will be sent via the UK port of Southampton to Antarctica by ship. A fourth lab will follow at a later date.

The three labs will form part of a Dutch research station, the first such facility in Antarctica ever. Junior Science Minister Halbe Zijlstra sealed the labs before they were loaded onto trucks. He named the four labs: Geloof (Faith), Hoop (Hope), Liefde (Love) and Blijde Boodschap (Glad Tidings), after the four ships which left Rotterdam in 1598 on a search for a faster trade route with Asia, via the southern tip of South America.

Ice caps

During the journey, the Blijde Boodschap was blown far off course in a storm. The ship’s captain, Enkhuizen-born Dirck Gerritsz. Pomp, also known as Dirck China, spotted a “very mountainous land, covered in snow, like the land of Norway”. He is the first explorer recorded as seeing (islands off) Antarctica and is also thought to be the first known Dutch-born merchant to visit China and Japan, while serving a Portuguese employer at his Goa trading post. Pomp never made it back to the Netherlands.

During the mobile labs send-off, Zijlstra said that the lab to be stationed at Rothera Point on Aidelaide Island will be named Gerritsz, after the Dutch captain.

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research expects the three labs to arrive in late March. The first researchers will leave for Antarctica next Fall. The labs will be manned by five scientists who will monitor and research changes in the ice caps, thought to be melting.