Ghent University and the Belgica explore the world's oceans together


Belgium has a solid tradition in marine research and corresponding vessels. Belgian polar explorer Adrien de Gerlache's South Pole expedition on the first Belgica in the late 19th century is universally known. After the second Belgica from 1984, the third one is now ready for a bright future, in which unseen interdisciplinary research from Ghent University will form an important part.

Scientists Alphonse Renard (1842-1903) and Lucien De Coninck (1909-1988) spearheaded marine research at their university, the former as a mineralogist and oceanographer and the latter as a biologist. They respectively ensured that de Gerlache could travel to the South Pole and that Ghent University started investing in marine research, thus freeing up money to build the second Belgica.

Today, marine sciences are studied in a variety of faculties in Ghent. By biologists and geologists, of course, but also by chemists and lawyers. Take maritime law, for instance. Our climate and food supply, for example, depend on the interaction between the atmosphere and the oceans. What does the ocean floor tell us about the food supply for our fish or the sea's ability to store CO₂? What does that sea tell us about past natural disasters or the impact of climate change? How can we best coordinate different activities at sea: wind farms, fishing, sand extraction, etc.? Marine research is clearly of unquestionable social importance.