Skip to main content

Polarman, Polarman....

POLARMAN: 3rd July, 2008

Guest column by Dr Abhijeet Bhatia

(Abhijeet is a wintering member of the 27th Indian Antarctic Expedition, and maintains his own blog:

The big day was finally here. The biggest festival in Antarctica- the Mid-Winter Day! It was the darkest day (or should we call it the darkest night) of the polar night. According to an old tradition, anyone who is in Antarctica on 21st June is called a Polarman. But it does not come so easily. Anyone who is here on this day has to spend almost a whole year here. That is because it is not possible to commute to and fro Antarctica during the winters, that is, from April till beginning of November. The last flight leaves this continent around March and start only in November. The ships also start arriving in only in December after leaving Antarctican shore in March-April. Hence, This privilege of being called ‘Polarman’ is reserved exclusively for the winter teams. So this was a memorable day for all of us, especially the first timers. After all, being a polarman is a rare feat. Congratulatory messages had come pouring in from all over the world and other Antarctic stations.

The Mid- Winter Day also means that Antarctica will only get brighter now. Half of the period of polar nights is now over. We will be able to see the sun again after 1 month, though only for, may be, four minutes. But winters are far from over. July and August are the coldest and the windiest months here. That means that the winters are just peaking.

The Russians came over to join us for the celebrations from the nearby Russian station, Novo. They were expected around 10 AM, but were late. They can't be blamed because driving time in Antarctica is highly unpredictable. When they did arrive, we all had a gala time. We exchanged small gifts, and then it was time for drinks, snacks and then tambola exclusively for the Russians. The Russians did not know how to play, so we guided them. They were playing for bottles of rum. Hence there was cut throat competition. They guzzled alcohol like water. We were no match for them. We interacted with them freely and took them around the station. Language was a major problem. But that did not hinder the conversation, which flowed like liquor. They enjoyed Indian dishes thoroughly. We had made every effort to cook according to their tastes- no chillies, minimum oil.

We had made some good friends. It was nice to see some new faces after a long time. We are now ready to face the rest of the time in Antarctica with renewed vigour, with the knowledge that now it's all downhill from here.

As our leader said- Ab hum roshni ki taraf ja rahe hain.


Popular posts from this blog

The Winter Embrace of Kedarkantha


When I told my family and friends that I wanted to trek to Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib this August, everyone thought I was just crazy. Besides Delhi, the rain gods had been relentless over Uttarakhand too causing road breaches at multiple sites in various hill towns. There were landslides everywhere and traffic to all the well known pilgrimage centres of Badri Nath, Kedar Nath, Gangotri and Yamunotri were getting cut off from rest of the country every now and then. The group I was trying to assemble had fallen through. But to do justice to the Valley of Flowers, one has to trek there in the month of August only when the entire valley is at its best bloom. So finally, I enquired at the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Ltd ( if they had any vacancy for its weekly tour to Valley of Flowers – Hemkund Sahib – Badri Nath. Of course, they did not have any for the month of August. However, I was banking on some cancellations hoping some people might not like to venture on this…

Chopta - Tungnath - Chandrashila Trek

Five days of holidays in the beginning of October was god-sent for many people to make a beeline into their favourite destinations; we too planned to make best of this golden opportunity, since it does not happen very often that one gets constellation of holidays falling together. If I have to plan, what better place than go for a quick visit to the Himalayas in Uttarakhand. Chopta and Tungnath had been in my mind for a long time. I made enquiries and found this was a doable trip in five days. Vasu, after some hesitation, agreed to accompany me, and then I asked Shariff, who approved the plan (of course, after consulting Malini) without hestitation. What bothered me was the road condition. After last year’s devastation due to fury of floods in Uttarakhand, esp, in the region of Kedarnath, I was a little wary, since Chopta and Tungnath fall in the close vicinity of Kedarnath; afterall, Tungnath is one of five Kedar temples. I contacted GMVN’s offices in Rishikesh and other places to ge…