The New Belgica
In 1897, the young Belgian “Adrien de Gerlache”, bought a Norwegian ship called ‘Patria’. He changed the name into ‘BELGICA’ and set sail to become the first man ever to scientifically explore Antarctica during the winter. Monday, August 16 – 1897. The port of Antwerp is filled with people. The National Anthem is being played, canon shots of joy are heard across the River. The BELGICA leaves the harbour, setting sail to Antarctica. Other than a lost whaler, there has never been a soul nearby. After three months of darkness, -40°C, storms, despair, desertion, mutiny, starvation, disease and death, the BELGICA returned to Antwerp on the 5th of November 1899. The crew was received in triumph. Even before they disembarked, De Gerlache and his officers were knighted by The Order of King Leopold. The BELGICA expedition returned with an enormous amount of valuable scientific information. Polar ice couldn’t break the BELGICA. But war could. The ship sank in 1940 nearby the coast of Harstad (Norway), in mysterious circumstances. 50 Years later, in 1990, a Norwegian diving club discovered the wreck, only 22 meters deep and 200 meters off the coastline. It was immediately clear that the remains of the BELGICA could not be restored. But they did contain enough valuable information for the ship to be rebuilt. Non-profit organization “De Steenschuit” is now rebuilding the original BELGICA. The NEW BELGICA will be a full scale museum replica of the original vessel. The University of Ghent has taken the initiative to design architectural plans, based on photographs, sketches and drawings of the original BELGICA wreck. The NEW BELGICA will be built with durable materials and eco-friendly construction methods. The rebuilding takes over five years to complete, and is being realized by 500 unemployed citizen who are be trained to do so. With the rebuilding of the NEW BELGICA, unemployed youngsters are being reintegrated through orientation, training, coaching and internships.