Peruvian Navy Strengthens Presence in Antarctica
By Gonzalo Silva Infante/Diálogo March 18, 2019In early March, the polar research vessel BAP Carrasco (BOP-171) will return to its base in Lima, Peru, after concluding the 26th Peruvian scientific campaign to Antarctica. Under the leadership of the Peruvian Navy, expedition ANTAR XXVI kicked off December 7, 2018.
For its expedition to the white continent, the BAP Carrasco has a crew of 70 officers and noncommissioned officers of the Peruvian Navy, as well as 40 scientists from the region. Officers of the Argentine, Brazilian, Canadian, Ecuadorean, and Spanish navies also participate in the campaign, which strengthens bonds of friendship and collaboration among partner navies.
ANTAR XXVI not only facilitates military exchange opportunities but also carries out scientific research programs in coordination with participating nations, and conducts maintenance at Peru’s Antarctic Base Machu Picchu, located on King George Island. The expedition also seeks to create an Antarctic consciousness and strengthen Peru’s presence in the white continent with the participation of BAP Carrasco.
On its second campaign to Antarctica, and under the leadership of Peruvian Navy Captain Rafael Benavente Donayre, the research vessel serves as a floating laboratory equipped with cutting-edge polar and marine research technology. Argentine, Chilean, and Colombian military and civilian scientists joined their Peruvian counterparts to conduct 22 research projects—nine aboard the BAP Carrasco and 13 at the Machu Picchu Antarctic Base.
“The technological change was mainly reflected in time spent on jobs and their depth,” Peruvian Navy Commander Carlos Holguín Valdivia, chief of the Special Projects and Antarctic Affairs Department at the Directorate of Hydrography and Navigation (DHN), told Diálogo. “That’s why we took the opportunity to bring aboard scientists from other countries and officers of worldwide navies last year  and this year  to participate in the campaigns, so they can see that this unit, one of the best in the world, works in Antarctica.”
Military and civilian scientists took advantage of sailing times to organize presentations about the different tasks their institutions carry out and the equipment they use, such as the autonomous underwater vehicle. To verify the level of preparation, the crew conducted simulation exercises, such as an abandon ship drill or an emergency in the electric engine room.
The scientific research programs were carried out in two stages to embark and disembark the teams of experts. Experts conducted studies about the ecology of Antarctic birds, the diversity of macrobenthos—organisms that live on the seabed—and plankton, and the marine ecosystem in several areas, among others.
Meteorological and weather studies were also performed. For example, DHN focused on oceanic circulation around the South Shetland and Elephant islands and their connection with the El Niño and La Niña climate phenomena.
“We fulfilled 100 percent of the planned tasks,” Capt. Benavente told Diálogo. “All these studies are very important because it is known that some atmospheric and climate phenomena occurring in Antarctica are closely linked to Peru. Any variation in the Antarctic Peninsula’s balance could have repercussions in our ecosystem.”
According to Capt. Benavente, the results of the studies are essential for the international scientific community, since they allow for an evaluation of global weather and its impact. The Peruvian Navy will also benefit from the experience and strengthen its presence in Antarctica.
“As the Directorate of Hydrography and Navigation, we have our counterparts in Ecuador, Chile, and Argentina,” Cmdr. Holguín concluded. “We are proud to have this high-level platform [the BAP Carrasco] and that officers of other navies want to come aboard.”