São Pedro and São Paulo Archipelago Research Station

New Wave Media

May 26, 2014

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The São Pedro and São Paulo archipelago (ASPSP) is composed by 15 small islands or rock outcrops, located about 1,000 km off the coast of Rio Grande do Norte and approximately 610 km from the Fernando de Noronha archipelago in Northeast Brazil, and has a total emerged area of is approximately 17,000 square meters. The low altitude and small size made the location a critical point for navigation, because the islands are very difficult to detect with the naked eye at sea level, especially under adverse light and weather conditions which have led to many shipwrecks in the past.

The first and most famous of these wrecks was the one that led to the discovery of the archipelago. It involved the Portuguese ship São Pedro, under the command of Captain Manuel de Castro Alcoforado, which, in 1511, crashed against rocks when she strayed from the rest of the fleet, which had set sail from Portugal on 20 April 1511, towards India. The rescue ship that rescued São Pedro was from the same fleet, and she was called "São Paulo", hence the name "São Pedro and São Paulo". The first map record of that remote region dates back to 1529, and Brazil's ownership of it has never been challenged. The first Scientific Station built there was inaugurated on June 25, 1998 and since then, the site has remained permanently inhabited by university researchers, supported by Brazilian Navy ships.

The São Pedro and São Paulo archipelago is located over the São Paulo tectonic fracture zone. The larger islands have an area of approximately 7.500 m2 and the highest altitude is 17 meters. It is classified as one of the most inhospitable places in Brazil for the human life. The implantation of a research station was motivated by scientific, economic, and strategic factors. Conceived in an innovative system using timber (slab beams), the Station was mounted in only 12 days, and is composed of a main building (49 m2), water treatment system (desalinized by reverse osmosis, storage tanks, and pumps), a system to capture solar energy (photovoltaic plates, inverters, and batteries), communication systems, deposits, and a mooring place.

The project was proposed with the objective of minimum impact to the environment and maximum comfort taking in account the harsh natural conditions of the region. The absence of fresh water and vegetation, the agitated sea, the great amount of sharks and crabs, frequent seismic disturbances, birds and the distances to the coast are elements that make any construction attempt in the place a challenge. The studies and investments for the Archipelago occupation are based in the following interests:

1. Economic: Abundance commercial and ornamental fish;

2. Scientific: Geology (unique geological formation; seismography), climatology (important meteorological data), ornithology (presence of two species of sea birds), oceanic and fisheries engineering (large presence of fish and, in smaller number, of marine turtles), behavior (isolation condition and aggressiveness of the place);

3. Strategic: Geographical location and sea limit expansion.

archipelagoaspspbrazilfaultislandnavigationoutcropportugueseresearchstationwrecks
Paschoa, Claudio
Claudio Paschoa is Marine Technology Reporter's correspondent in Brazil.
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