On the 4 January 2021, India launched the 40th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica (ISEA). This mission contains 43 members aboard and started from the Mormugao Port Trust, Goa. This event calls for a - let the journey begin!
Indian explorers embarked on the first expedition to Antarctica in 1981, and the world welcomed it with open arms. India signed the Antarctic Treaty System on 1 August in 1983, becoming the fifteenth country to be a Consultative Member of the Antarctic Treaty.
The first research base named Dakshin Gangotri was constructed entirely in 1983, followed by Maitri, the second research base in 1989. The third research base – Bharti, was made using 134 shipping containers in 2015.
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Current State of Indian Research Bases in Antarctica
Dakshin Gangotri was cut out in 1989 and is currently being used as a supply base and transit camp. Maitri is set up on the Schirmacher Oasis and conducts experiments related to geology, geography and medicine. It also accomplished the geomorphologic mapping of the oasis.
Bharti is located next to Larsmann Hill located at coordinates 69°S, 76°E. It is used for oceanographic research as it collects evidence on how continents were broken and millions of years of the ancient history of the Indian subcontinent.
These stations are operated under the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Union Ministry of Earth Science.
The Russian ice-class vessel MV Vasiliy Golovnin is in use for this mission. The ship will travel to Cape Town, South Africa to pick up five more members. It is expected to reach Antarctica, also known as the Southern White Continent in 30-45 days.
The vessel is supposed to bring back the 48-strong winter crew who has been on the continent for the last 15 months. A team of 40 Members will be left on the continent and are expected to return to India in April 2021.
40th ISEA - A Remarkable Feather In India's Antarctica Cap
Dr. Yogesh Ray is leading the 40th ISEA crew, which consists of several scientists, engineers, doctors, and technicians from all over India. The team is studded with the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR)’s Suresh Kulkarni and Ravindra Santosh More from Indian Meteorological Department.
The NCPOR, which manages the entire program, said that this expedition’s objective, much like the ones preceding it, is to control and support the ongoing scientific projects climate change, geology, electric and magnetic flux measurements ocean observations and environmental monitoring.
Indian Mission to Antarctica Hindered Due to COVID-19
Bharti base and Maitri base are responsible for continuing the mission with as much passion and sincerity as the previous Indian Antarctic Programme has shown. This may, however, be challenging due to the COVID situation. Previously, a team of 100 members, where 40% were logistic personnel, was set up. Out of these 100, 50 were to take their place in the two stations, and the other 50 were supposed to relieve others from their previous stations.
But due to the pandemic, some of the returning members travelling by ship had to stop at Cape Town to follow the COVID protocol and get quarantined. The rest of the team which was supposed to take the flight out had to stay back as no flights were available, prolonging their stay.
The Ministry of Earth Sciences has assured that strict protocol for the deployment of materials and people on board will be followed as per the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Program.
All the members will be required to maintain a 14-day quarantine pre- and post-expedition. All the tools and the cargo will be sanitised, and RT-PCR tests for all the crew be conducted before boarding the vessel.
Antarctica - Avenue of Opportunities
The director of NCPOR, M Ravichandran, said “Polar regions are crucially important in answering key questions about global climate change. It contributes to global sea-level rise, the background aerosol properties, variability in the sea ice cover and phenomena like Antarctic haze and ozone concentrations.
Attempts to address some of these issues are helping in mitigating several important problems concerning human life and well-being.” Javed Beg, group director, NCPOR in an interview with India Science Wire said that every expedition is different and preserves different challenges.
But the 40th excursion is unique as it takes place amid the coronavirus pandemic with countless logistical challenges.
Climate Change And Global Warming - Harming Like Always
Global warming has had an alarming impact on the earth’s polar regions. The sea-levels have increased due to the increase in melting of ice. It’s not long before this impacts all the continents around the globe.
India has a coastline of about 7500 km, and over 250 million people live in this region. If the sea level proceeds to rise, it will destroy the vast population.
We’ve seen the effects of this melting of the ice as recently as 7 January 2021. The Uttarakhand flood triggered by breaking an avalanche or a glacier has killed 36 people so far, and as many as 169 people are still missing.
Let’s keep this in mind people. It’s not the first time that something like this has happened. And only we are to blame for such disasters. All these forest fires and melting glaciers result from global warming, and we cannot keep ignoring it.