The Antarctic summer of 2008-09 is coming to an end now. The Antarctica, being in the southern hemisphere, the Antarctic summer lasts approximately from October till beginning of April. During this time, most of Antarctica experiences an extended and unending day lasting many months. At the South Pole, the Sun does not set for six months. At Maitri (Lat: 70 Deg 45' 01.65" South, Long: 11 Deg 43' 01.45" East), the continuous day continues for nearly four months. When I reached Antarctica on 15th November, 2007, it was already an unending day, and I never saw a star in the sky till the beginning of February, 2008. I would see moon sometimes during these months, but it would be completely lackluster without its ‘chandni’. It did not stir any romantic feelings, and one could not sing ‘dhire dhire chal chand gagan mein’.
The summer period in Antarctica are months of hectic activity. All the camps and bases of various countries come alive to receive new teams and guests and bid farewell to the wintering team members. The supplies are received, offloaded, and stocked. The scientific equipments are serviced, major repairs in the station are carried out. My old mates of 27th batch of the Indian Antarctic Scientific Expedition, who wintered there, have also returned now putting the winter team of 28th batch in place at Maitri.
Summer months are also a period of wild life come alive, as many birds and some species of penguins begin their nest building, laying and hatching of eggs, and rearing of chicks. The Emperor penguin does this work during the height of winter with temperatures plummeting to -50 C. It has to do things differently from the commoners, after all it is Emperor. With sea and air travel becoming operational during summer months (during winter months, entire Antarctic continent becomes out of bounds), ice-breaker ships start traversing the Southern sea, and cruises start ferrying tourists for packages for two to three weeks. Now you can fly into Antarctica all the way from wherever you are (as I did) via Cape Town or Chile.
Summer is also the time when the ceremonial South Pole starts receiving its adventurous guests and expeditioners. Various expeditions are planned to reach the pole in a way that has not been used earlier. This year was no different; in fact, a number of new record achievements took place, like South Pole Race and a blind man reaching the South Pole for the first time in history. See the posts below.
If you ever thought that indulging in adventure sports or going to the South Pole is meant only for people who are full time into such sports, then you are mistaken. Gavin Booth and Adam Wilton, two young men in their early 30’s have just completed a 1130km trek to the South Pole to raise funds to Save Scott’s Hut. Inspired by news stories of the plight of the fragile hut, Gavin and Adam decided to support the cause and achieve a lifetime ambition, to trek unaided to the Pole.
Gavin works for GE Real Estate in London, and runs marathon, road cycling and climbs mountains as hobby. Adam works for Investment bank in London and has similar hobbies. But going to the South Pole is not just an ordinary hobby. For them it was an expedition of lifetime and the effort over the past 5 years – sacrificing holidays for training, negotiating time off work, getting up in the early morning to drag tyres, and negotiating time off work. In November 2008 they left for a 2-man expedition to the Geographic South Pole, starting at the edge of the Antarctic continent. The expedition was unique in the sense that it was not to have any resupplies and would be self sufficient, dragging 120kg pulks over the ice and sastrugi, in one of the harshest environments on the planet. The team successfully reached South pole on 27th December, 2008 after a grueling work of 45 days. More on Scott’s Hut in next post.