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Brief summary of some oceanographic contributions in Belgium until 1922
Charlier, R.H.; Leloup, E. (1968). Brief summary of some oceanographic contributions in Belgium until 1922, in: Carpine-Lancre, J. et al. (Ed.) Premier congrès international d'histoire de l'océanographie, Monaco - 1966: communications. Bulletin de l'Institut océanographique, Monaco, Numéro spécial(2): pp. 293-310
In: Carpine-Lancre, J.; Leighley, J. (Ed.) (1968). Premier congrès international d'histoire de l'océanographie, Monaco - 1966: communications. Bulletin de l'Institut océanographique, Monaco, Numéro spécial(2). Musée Océanographique: Monaco. 357 pp., more
In: Bulletin de l'Institut océanographique, Monaco. Musée Océanographique: Monaco. ISSN 0078-9690, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 
  • VLIZ: Open Repository 124297 [ OMA ]
  • VLIZ: Proceedings [123954]
Document type: Conference paper

    Historical account; Oceanography; ANE, Belgium [Marine Regions]; Marine

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    Although even today oceanography is poorly represented in the curriculum of Belgian universities, interest -and achievements -are not to be underestimated. The major handicap with which the sciences of the sea have had to cope is official parsimony and, if not indifference from the public, then at least lethargy. Had it not been, for instance, for the eleventh-hour generosity of some Antwerp mecenae, the Belgica South Pole expedition would have remained alongside the quay. This is somewhat surprising for a nation whose wealth was derived, for centuries, from overseas commerce and whose coastline constitutes, well within historical times, a fascinating example of coastline variations. If by a stretch of the imagination one may consider that " interest ff in matters pertaining to the sea, and other than navigation, dates as far back as the reign of JOHN the Bold, Count of Flanders, actual scientific endeavours certainly flourished in the sixteenth century. Mapping of the coastline was indeed already completed by Mercator in 1590. Detailed information is available on the evolution of the Belgian shore, which underwent a continuous process of retreat, and man 's intervention from the eleventh century on. Little oceanographic and potamologic information was gathered from 1600 to the dawn of Belgian independence (1830). Depth soundings were made and maps drawn after l830 even though manpower and equipment were sadly insufficient. Field studies remained substantially confined to coastal surveys, historical geology and hydrographic research on the Scheldt river. P.J. Van Beneden, however, built in Ostend one of the first marine biology stations along the North Sea and pursued there, as well as aboard fishing vessels, biomarine research. The fame of the extremely modest installation spread to foreign countries and noted scientists came from abroad to work in Ostend. His son E. Van Beneden continued to use the station. G. Gilson built a new one, and throughout his career attempted to direct the sight of the Belgian scientific world towards the sea. He left the Belgian shores and pursued his studies in various areas of the world. At the end of the nineteenth century, A. De Gerlache De Gomery managed after considerable difficulties to equip the BeIgica and to get her on the way to the South Pole. From then on Belgium took its place among the nations conducting oceanographic cruises. D. Damas participated in such cruises in 1905 and in 1922. Credit for oceanographic work must also go to the State Hydrographic Service. Hydrobiological research has been pursued at various scientific centers of Belgium for close to a century and steadily carved itself a wider space in research and curricula. Scientific contact existed between the University of Liege and the Albert I of Monaco foundations but were only marginally oceanographic. The development of oceanography in Belgium was hampered by the liquidation of the Royal Belgian Navy (only resuscitated in 1940), among whose officers Stessels made important oceanographic contributions, the traditional rigidity of university curricula, and the loss of the maritime tradition after the secession from the Netherlands. A revival of the marine sciences has been developing and given impetus by efforts of the Ligue maritime belge and the recently (1955) founded Centre belge d'Océanographie.

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