Welcome to the Belgica120 expedition website!

In the framework of the RECTO project funded by the Belgian Science Policy Office, the expedition aims at carrying out a biodiversity census in the Western Antarctic Peninsula in March 2018, and to test-case the potential for an agile sampling platform (the Australis sailboat). The expedition bears a strong historic link to the first scientific expedition to overwinter in Antarctica in 1897-99 recording the first intertidal biodiversity data, 120 years ago. This historic expedition was led by Adrien de Gerlache, onboard the RV Belgica.


There is a dearth of knowledge about biodiversity levels found in intertidal environment in the Southern Ocean, a situation opposite to that found in other oceans. These habitats are exposed to fast-paced changes in key environmental parameters (seawater temperature, salinity, primary production, sea-ice regimes), and host organisms which have been facing past events shaping the function and structure of ecosystems. On top of understanding these aspects, the RECTO/vERSO projects have identified plasticities (trophic, dispersive) and connectivities as a key areas of research to understand the impact of the environmental changes on Antarctic ecosystems.

Find out more about our science projects here


Based in the Southern Hemisphere ‘Australis’ is a steel hulled, fully rigged motor sailor registered as a commercial – Category 0 (zero – Unrestricted) vessel. She carries a comprehensive range of safety, operational and navigational equipment. A 180hp Gardner diesel engine powers the vessel and she is equipped with 2 zodiac tenders. She sails beautifully and has a powerful engine to push her along at 8+ knots when needed.

You can find more information about the vessel on the Ocean Expeditions website.