Sunday, February 10, 2008

A 'Nail Biting' Farewell

I am not lucky even the fourth time. Today I was to have my maiden flight in chopper for going to the ship. The wind speed is not less than 50 knot judging by the jerks my hut is receiving. Weather is worse around the ship. So may be another couple of days here; Maitri ka daana-paani khatam nahin hua hai. Some of the younger lot of the team are quite resentful in not being able to go over the ship. "Why weren't we sent when weather was so clear and we had finished our work here?" they ask indignantly. I am angry on myself. I did not take bath or wash my clothes for last two days leaving it for the ship. I should not have done it believing in Murphy's law. In keeping with this law, may be I shall be able to go tomorrow as I shall bathe today as well as wash some clothes. But it is Antarctica, you never know. One major problem with the delayed departure, if it happens, would be less time for people from Survey of India who were to do detailed study of the topography of Larsemann Hill.
For last three days, there is farewell every evening in small groups on private basis. I am surprised that there was no formal farewell for the ten members of the 26th IAE either by the remaining members or by the 27th team when every now and then cultural evenings are organized. My farewell speech is wasted.

I had told you that I had organized a farewell party for myself with the members of the logistic team of the 27th IAE. I get along with them quite well and we all are members of the Dooda Beta Film Club. We squeezed ourselves in the loft of Annapurna lounge where four members have their beds. My own hut would have been quite inadequate with no extra chair or floor space. I have enough now to go with any evening party, gifted to me by the members who have already left. Why did I think of this get together? Well, I have imbibed it from Chitra. Secondly, there was wine still lying untouched since I bought it in Goa in November before flying in here. I did not know what to do with it. Bringing it back to Goa would be anticlimax. Five of the eleven assembled have done one winter here earlier. They regaled us with some of the stories of their expeditions. For example, Raghunathan had to confine himself in a tiny hut on the ice shelf for three days when blizzard hit unannounced. His worry was not how to survive since where ever IAE has huts, they are equipped with food all the year around. He struggled about his nature calls. He could not venture out as along with the blizzard there was white out too, and in those conditions if you get lost outside you are doomed. Arjun too was holed up in a hut with his colleague during his last expedition for ten days when blizzard hit them. It was a hut with scientific instruments in a little remote area with no toilet facilities inside. Arjun stopped eating or ate very little to save him the ignominy of shitting inside the hut where he conducted his scientific work. His colleague was shameless in this respect. When they were rescued ten days later, Arjun was emaciated and barely able to speak coherently or walk on his own feet. However, what all these men remembered most or still remember are the people with whom they spent their long winters here. They have managed contacts not with all but at least with some of them till date.

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