Saturday, March 15, 2008

Superstitions and Science

Originally meant for posting on March 1st

It is amazing how superstitions can influence the scientific work. After the inaugural chopper flights on 24th itself, we had chalked out the schedule of sorties from 25th with Team A of 5 people in the first sortie. On 25th and 26th the weather remained inclement for sorties. On the evening of 26th, some younger members started making fun of Team A that it was because of them, and implored upon the leader to revise the schedule of sorties. The leader, otherwise very logical and rational, joined the fun and revised the list. I laughed out loud that now superstitions are coming to the rescue of scientific expeditions. But it worked! On 27th the weather became clear and bright. Sorties took off on time. On 28th Team A again became the first to shake off superstitious thinking. No problem. On 29th when I was going to take the lunch sortie, the weather again turned bad; no sorties. This morning, all the sorties had left by 7:30 am. However, within next 90 minutes it started to pack up with snowing. By 10 all were back on the ship. Now it was my turn to be blamed that on two occasions when I was to bring lunch, weather packed up. I retorted that it would happen that way if you give Dr Khandelwal such mundane duties. Allow him to go in the first sortie to lead the pack for the day’s work and then see the result. Of course, it did not move the leader.

Some members wanted to camp there overnight for 1-2 days for starting work there at 6 am itself. Three igloo huts are parked there with arrangements for 10 people. I have volunteered to go and been included. However, it looks people have chickened out; what if the weather turns bad not for a day or two but for several days. I did not try to convince them, but said that ship could not leave without us; just 30 min of clear weather will be enough for choppers to bring us back. It is true, though, that weather can remain bad for several days in continuity as we have witnessed on two occasions in last one month. I can not complain; it was because of bad weather only that I along with some others managed to board the ship for Larsemann Hills. People have started now getting bored. They would not forgive me if because of our stranded camping the ship gets delayed by even a single day. Every day there are discussions at least few times a day calculating tentative dates of departure and possible dates of arrival at Goa.

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