Italian Icebreaker Laura Bassi Embarks on Antarctic Mission with Cutting-Edge Scientific Upgrades

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by InTrieste

The icebreaker Laura Bassi, owned by the National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics (OGS), set sail today from Naples, where it completed the loading of scientific instruments and materials for the upcoming scientific campaign of the National Research Program in Antarctica (PNRA).

This year, the ship departed from the port of Naples instead of the usual departure point in Ravenna, due to a series of modifications carried out at the Mediterranean Shipyards. The alterations included the creation of a new laboratory on the deck and, more importantly, the construction of a “Baltic chamber” – a steel box structure standing six meters high and over seven meters long. This chamber is capable of housing the rosette, the primary sampling instrument used in oceanography. The rosette is a system that collects water samples and measures certain characteristics, reaching depths of up to 6000 meters, providing researchers with information from specific deep-water samples.

The on-board structure can accommodate two rosettes and was built and installed by the Mediterranean Shipyards, which managed and resolved technical aspects, ensuring the completion of the work in time for the Antarctic mission.

The Laura Bassi will participate in the 39th Antarctic campaign, with Italian missions in Antarctica funded by the Ministry of University and Research under the National Research Program in Antarctica (PNRA). These missions are coordinated scientifically by the National Research Council (CNR), logistically planned and organized by the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA) at Antarctic bases, and technically and scientifically managed by the National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics – OGS, specifically for the icebreaker Laura Bassi.

The ship will arrive in New Zealand in early January 2024, then embark on its journey to Antarctica with 38 Italian researchers and technologists on board, along with a crew of 23 members. For the first time, the mission will be shared with the New Zealand Antarctic project, involving 12 researchers. It will circumnavigate the entire Ross Sea and conclude its Antarctic mission in March 2024 in Lyttleton (NZ) before returning to Italy at the end of April.

The OGS’s icebreaker is currently the only Italian research icebreaker for oceanography, and also the first and only Italian-flagged ship capable of operating in polar seas, both in Antarctica and the Arctic. It complies with international rules for ship access to polar areas, known as the “Polar Code,” regulating various technical aspects impacting navigation in remote, challenging, and highly vulnerable environments with particularly severe weather conditions.

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