RV Hesperides

20th Jan 2019

On board Spanish Polar Research Vessel RV Hesperides.

Crossing Drake Passage.

Commanding Officer: Emilio Regodon

RV Hesperides from freeshipplans.com.png
RV Hesperides from freeshipplans.com

Diary report:

Drake Passage, next to Cape Horn, is the roughest crossing in the world so I have been preparing to experience the ship’s bows smashing down onto crashing waves and surging swells tossing and rolling us as we make our way towards Deception Island.

Due to weather reports of waves 6 – 10 m high the Commanding Officer delayed our start time by 12 hours avoiding the tail end of one high wind cycle and making sure that we will be travel ahead of the next. As a result of his brilliant captainship the waves we are experiencing are 3 – 4 m high, not to be sniffed at but certainly not the high seas I was expecting.

Even with these measly waves there is a fair amount of disruption to life on board. I write from the upper mess, much nicer than the windowless lower mess which smells like a boys changing room. Clara the ships doctor and one of the crew are quietly playing the Ukulele and at the long table there are a group of scientists with laptops and folders and charts. They are talking about the data they will collect for their studies on clouds.

Every now and then the ship rolls more than usual and everyone’s chairs slide down the right side of the table and then back again. It makes me chuckle to see everyone just carrying on regardless. I have joined the end of the table and I too am now nonchalantly sliding from end to end, four of us sliding in a row. The table is nicely polished so that my notebook goes with me.

10 left
10° Slanty

On the wall is a brass instrument with degrees marked on it and a heavy pointer hanging free, the pointer swings with the movement of the ship so you can see the degree to which we are leaning. Things begin to slide at 12 degrees. The most we have tilted since I have been watching is 19 degrees.

Level Deck

It’s quite difficult to walk around the ship, you have to take one step and then wait, plan what you are going to hang onto next, then launch yourself in the right direction. Everyone is lurching around from pillar to post wearing back packs because you need both hands free. Going to the loo is difficult.

Many people have been feeling very sick, some have to lie on their bunks and can’t get up at all and others appear from time to time looking rather wild with their faces various shades of green. I thought that I would probably feel sick but so far I have been lucky, I’ve been trying to keep busy so this morning I went up to the bridge to visit Commanding Officer Emilio Regodon and see what was going on.

Drake Passage strip.jpg
Here’s what I did while everyone else was feeling sick

Woooooaaah, we have just slanted to 26 degrees! Everything has fallen on the floor, all the chairs are in the corner and the fridge door has come unhooked, Lemon Fanta cans rolling everywhere.

Anyway, up on the bridge there are lots of people busy doing important navigational things, looking at charts and graphs, following predicted weather patterns and plotting our course accordingly. They are also listening to Spanish pop music and eating sweets, everyone seems very jolly so I assume all is well.

Instruments on the bridge.jpg

Ships in the Arctic collect data about Polar Bears, they report when and where they see one and they have a special chart so they can accurately decide how fat or thin it is. In the Antarctic the ships report information about ice and clouds for scientists who are investigating climate change. There are posters with pictures of different types of clouds and ice formations so that you can name what you see even if you are not an expert.

cloud indentification.jpg
Cloud Formation ID pictures

At the bridge there is always someone with binoculars scanning the path ahead. Growlers are what you have to look out for; growlers are a type of ice I came across in the Arctic. They are very dense nuggets made from the ice which has been compacted for a long time in glaciers and icebergs. Growlers don’t show up on radar, they are dark blue and float low in the water making them difficult to see but they could easily make a hole in the side of the ship or fatally damage the propeller.

Watching for growlers.jpg
Looking out for Growlers

Even with all these amazing electronic systems the crew still use a paper chart to plot the position of the ship. If everything goes wrong they can navigate using a pencil and a compass.

Chart chest copy.JPG
This is the chest full of charts which the path of the ship is pencilled onto.

The tube sticking down which looks like a periscope is a periscope – the compass has to be kept away from magnetic interference, as the whole ship is a lump of iron, it is housed high on the roof furthest from the engines. When you want to look at it you peer through the periscope and you can read the dial through a system of mirrors.

compass periscope.JPG

I’ve just been to check what they write in the log book, here is the information they record…

Date Sunday 20th January 2019

Time 20:00

Millage: 218 Nautical Miles today

True course heading of ship 162° (Where 360° is North and 180° is South so we are heading South East)

Speed: 11.5 Knots

Position latitude and longitude 57°28,6S 065°06,6W

Wind speed 16.2 Knots

Wind direction 287 North West

Pressure 993.6mb

Air Temp 10°C

Sea temp 8°C

7/8 Cloud coverage STCU (this means the cloud type is Stratus (ST) Cumulus (CU) according to the cloud chart)

(It is now 23rd Jan and just fyi it is FREEZING and v windy and sleeting and horrid.)

Annotated map.jpg
Our Course. I don’t know what those white lines are but quite impressive arrows I’m sure you will agree.

13 thoughts on “RV Hesperides”

  1. hi Bea,

    so exciting to follow you on your trip. Hope you don’t get sick!!

    hugs Majlis

    > 23 jan. 2019 kl. 22:14 skrev Beatrice von Preussen : > >


  2. Bea,

    What a wondrous story you are writing. I feel transported to another world and can almost imagine being with you on Hesperides. You do write so beautifully. Hopefully, you will soon arrive without growlers and tilters of 26 o.
    Very best of luck you brave young lady. Angel xxx

    Sent from my iPhone
    Angel Collins Garden Design
    The Old Vicarage
    CV47 2XG


  3. B you are the best. It’s SO nice to be able to follow you. That window photograph is ace. Keep writing as if you’re sitting on the end of my bed nattering away. It’s great! Xxxx


  4. Beautifully, descriptively written as always B! i love the way you build up a picture of your experience that is totally YOURS for us all to live vicariously through! Very exciting!


    1. Thank you! There is so much to share and so little time to do it in. We are very busy doing sampling and the Spanish regime of eating and resting doesn’t allow for much writing time.


  5. I love the horizon pictures, although if you gaze at them for too long you begin to feel a bit wobbly!
    I’m very glad to be reading this – sitting looking at the square and thinking of places far away…


  6. I LOVE THIS!!!!!!! You are so brave. Honey B and I are complaining about the wind and rain in Brighton today, but now we feel stupid! At least we can stand up and walk and don’t have to wear backpacks to go to the loo xxxx


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