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Showing posts from December, 2007

Members of the 26th Indian Antarctic Expedition

You already know that I am member of the 27th IAE. However, the previous batch, 26th, is also here and is on the verge of finishing its winter period. It, 24 of them, came here exactly 390 days ago and still has 75 more days to go. Its leader and Station Commander is Mr. D Jaypaul, Director, Geological Survey of India, Logistics leader is Col Suresh Kumar of Corps of Engineers, Indian Army, and it has 2 doctors, namely, Dr Ganesh Chaudhry and Dr Udaya Uthappa. There are 4 scientists (one each from GSI, IIG, NGRI, SASE), 2 doctors as above (one surgeon and one anaesthetist), two experts from the Indian Meteorological Deptt (to record weather related data and make forecasts on weather esp. on low pressure, wind speed, and possibility of a blizzard), 2 communication experts, and 16 members of the logistics team. What an important and crucial role the Logistics Team plays in the success of the Expedition and the Station, I shall tell you some other day. Cook is Mr. Ram Das from Indo-Tibet…

Dessert, Trading, and Pranayama

Dessert in White Desert

With every evening meal there is dessert. There is more variety than the choice of vegetables. Of course, the most favourite remains the ice cream. People fill their bowl from party pack till it starts spilling over. It is, Frosty, some brand from Goa. I am usually cautious in taking ice cream from unheard brands, but more than that it is the flavours that are available here. There is vanilla, which I can take only if it has been tempered by Chitra with chocolate sauce and caramelized walnuts. The other brand, strawberry, I do not like. Then there is some orange looking flavour called malta-orange which I find quite unappealing. Fresh hot gulab-jamun (made from Gits) is another favourite dessert, and I know at least one whose appetite for it is not less than15-20. My favourite desserts here remain very traditional ones, daal-halwa, besan-ki-burfi or laddoo, and chikki. Of course, the most favourite for me remains jalebi which a Bihari babu has convinced me to ta…

Christmas Celebrations

Of course it is X-mas and first of all I must wish you a very Merry Christmas. I hope you all had a good time. I have just come back to my hut after the Christmas celebrations in the Maitri lounge.

The Maitri Lounge was decorated with posters, star, Christmas trees (of course, artificial), lights and small figurines of Virgin Mary and Christ. Ten people came from the Russian station bringing a boxful of fresh vegetables (valuable gift), and a Canadian couple also joined. This couple runs the tourist agency, White Desert, and has just entertained a group of 10 tourists. Another 2 groups are awaited. We began the programme with the prayer, "ae maalik tere bande hum" and since I had suggested and given the lyric I was asked to lead it. And then I also became the MC by default. I also read out the Christmas message from Bible in Hindi and English. We sang 4 carols: Joy to the World; Sing Nowell, Nowell; We Long to See the so; and finally, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, when Santa Cl…

Shiv & Uma blessed with a baby

Yes, that is how I have named the skua pair. One egg has hatched; the other is still under Uma's warmth waiting to hatch. News came a couple of days ago, but I could manage to go to that area yesterday only. Once I was in that area Shiv made a few sorties in the air to investigate and warn me. I normally keep away so as to not disturb them, particularly Uma whose body warmth is so essential for the nest. From a distance without alarming them I could manage to see white head of the newly born chick with black bill and eyes protruding underneath Uma's belly. Since I have now a powerful zoom, I could manage some good shots. Shiv was in the background making noises all this while. Suddenly I saw that Uma also stood up on her legs exposing the chick and making shrill calls, and before I could realize what was happening she was airborne. I realized it soon enough when I saw Shiv and Uma chasing another pair of skua which had intruded into their airspace posing a threat to their nest…

Solstice

Today is 23rd December. This day carries the same significance in Antarctica as elsewhere. That is, the Sun now will travel from East to West northwards. Practically this means that in the northern hemisphere the days will start getting longer, while in Antarctica, the days will start getting shorter. Though there will still be 24-hour day, but one may look forward to nights, stars and moon in days to come. The Sun will set completely towards the end of January to have night for 4 minutes only.

The northbound Sun, Uttarayan, has other significance too in India. People attain 'nirvana' if they leave this world during this period of 6 months. In the great Indian epic, Mahabharat, the great warrior, Bhishm, was gifted in postponing death till the time of his choice. During the final battle when he falls down with Arjun's arrows all over his body, he keeps away death since he wished to leave for his heavenly abode only after the start of Uttarayan to achieve nirvana or moksha.

I…

Some photographs

Please enjoy the following photographs. I'm not very good with my new camera as yet, however hope this gives you some idea of my journey, and the Antarctica landscape.





Antarctica - the India connection

In all our great epics like various Puranas (Vishnu Puran, Shiv Puran) or Shri Mad-Bhagwat or Vedas written 3000-5000 years ago, there is uniform mention of seven continents in this universe. During my schooling days 45 years ago, our books and teachers taught us the Earth consisting of five continents only, while at home mother read the stories from these epics telling us of seven continents. Finally now the world recognizes the Earth to have seven continents with America now divided into two continents, South and North, and Antarctica being recognized as the seventh. So, Indian sages recognized Antarctica even in the ancient times! You all have read the story of Kumbh Karan, the younger brother of demon king Ravan in the famous India epic Ramayan. Kumbh Karan was known for many things, the most important being his sleep pattern of sleeping for 6 months and remaining awake for the next 6 months. Was he living or ruling over Antarctica?

Antarctica has many kinds of snow and ice. Only s…

Difficulties of Day Excursion

Though the day excursions are always welcome and I am always looking for an opportunity to tag along with any party going for field work, there are many inconveniences one has to face and handled. First is putting on a few layers of clothing. Then one has to wear thick polar gloves which make handling cameras or any other activity difficult. Then there is balaclava and the snow glasses (like the one used in skiing) etc. And then I carry two cameras. They also prove heavy if you are negotiating a glacier or walking on a frozen lake or descending or ascending through big uneven boulders. I have to carry cameras in thick protective cases so that the battery compartment remains warm enough to prevent malfunctioning and early discharge. In midst of all this it is very easy to lose any article. I have to take off gloves or snow glasses repeatedly to handle camera, or remove balaclava when it gets too warm. I have already lost a pair of gloves but for no fault of mine.

Though my constant wear…

A Bird Attack!

It had remained quite windy yesterday, but today late morning it started getting better, and now at 7 pm there is no wind. I went out for a walk with NK (a colleague) and then a skua tried attacking us. Perhaps we had gone very near its nest. I had seen its shadow hovering over us, but suddenly I realized this shadow was right near my feet, small and dark. I realized immediately it was right over my head. I saw it just 1 ft away from my head with menacing eyes and open claws. Its beak is like that of eagle or kite since it is a hunter and scavenger. Its pet birds for hunting are snow petrel and young Adelie penguins. I tried to shoo it away by sound and moving my hand. But it was not to be scared. I had my camera with me and I started rotating it above my head vigorously since I did not want to be attacked on my face. I was not wearing big snow glasses. NK tried to protect himself with a screw-driver that he was carrying. It attacked the screw-driver a few times, and then flew away. B…

Visit to a Russian Station

ANTARCTICA ON 05.12.2007:

Today six of us walked to the Russian station, Novo. It is about 5 km away surrounded on 3 sides by ice-shelf, so the minimum temperature goes much below as compared to the Indian station. As per protocol, our leader, Mr. D. Jay Paul, had informed telephonically the leader of the Russian station about our arrival. Today there has been no sun, it is cloudy all over and has been snowing intermittently. So walk of one and a half hour was not exhausting at all. On the way we met a penguin, Adelie, who was on the frozen part of the lake and swam across on seeing us to welcome us. Since they are not used to human presence, they are not shy of us humans.
We were received by the Russian leader, Mr. Eugene Savchenko, an oenologist. Basically he is a veteran of Arctic for last 30 years. This is his first time in Antarctica and has joined the team as its leader since February, 2007 and will depart only in March, 2008 taking 45 days to reach St Petersburg. He himself is no…

A Bird's Nest

A pair of skua has built a nest in the vicinity. To call it a nest would be a joke. When people told me about it, I thought it would be under some rocks or boulders. But no, it is right there in the open ground with no shade or cushion. Many birds that we know of back home, also make nests in the ground but use grass and twigs for cushioning. Of course, there is no grass or any twig in Antarctica. It would be fascinating to follow the hatching and growing of chicks. Before the winter sets in March, they will fly away to warmer islands.

By Antarctican standards, it is all summer now. The max temp is hovering around 0 degree. The size of the frozen blue lakes is shrinking, I mean, the ice is fast melting into water. I also do not have to wear too many layers of clothing. Though balaclava and hand gloves are still needed when I go for walks. But for shorter walks of 10-15 min, just one jacket over normal clothing is OK.

Getting up in the middle of the night

I have already written about 24-hour day here that continues day after day, or month after month during summer time. This in itself is a very unique and strange experience initially. The funniest feeling I get when I get up in middle of the night at about 2 am to pee. The summer team lives in the 'living module' and toilets are situated outside. Expecting dead of the night, you feel very strange when you find bright sunshine outside. The first though that strikes you is that you are late for the day, but then you remind yourself that just now you saw the time as 2 am. The stranger feeling is when I compare it with my getting up in middle of the night while on treks in the Himalayas. On those treks we usually stay in the tents and for peeing we have to walk a little distance away from the living area. The darkness is at its maximum as there is no source of light near or far that could provide even some psychological satisfaction. The small torch lights up only a small area in f…