Tragedy struck Maitri, the permanent Indian station at Antarctica when it lost its valued scientist, Mr Kuldeep Wali, on the 1st June 2009. Shri Kuldeep Wali a professional meteorologist with India Meteorological Department was deputed to Antarctica as a member of the winter over team of the 28th Indian Scientific Antarctic Expedition in November 2008 and was expected to return to India by November 2009. Born on 12th April 1952, Shri Kuldeep Wali passed way on Monday the 1st June 2009 at Indian Research Base Maitri, Antarctica in service to the nation. He suffered a massive acute myocardial infarction at 11:45 UTC (17:15 Hrs IST). Doctors struggled hard with all possible treatment but could not revive him and pronounced him dead at 12:20 UTC (17:50 Hrs IST). He is survived by his wife Smt. Rita Wali and daughter Ms. Ranshu Wali.
Shri Kuldeep Wali left National Centre of Antarctic and Ocean Research, Goa on the 17th November 2008 along with the second contingent of the 28th ISEA. He reached Novo airbase in Antarctica in the early hours of 22nd June flying all the way to Antarctica via Cape Town. Ever since his arrival at Maitri, he was actively involved in research and other work related to the Maitri station until he breathed his last.
It has been the most unfortunate thing that could happen at Maitri. The family of Mr Wali back home was obviously in shock and disbelief. However, it courageously and respectfully accepted the fact of life and requested for an early cremation at Maitri itself. Otherwise the body would have been preserved there and flown to Delhi only in November later this year when the air-flights resume with start of the summer season. Though the winds are very strong and the temperatures very low during polar nights, the wintering members found a huge boulder about a km downwind of the station and carried out the cremation in stormy winds there on the 11th June. It must have been an unnerving experience for the whole wintering team stationed currently at Maitri.
Losing and cremating a team member after spending nearly 6-8 months with him must have needed volumes of mental strength on their part to go through the process of bereavement during the icy and frozen conditions of Polar nights of Antarctica at this time of the year.
Through this blog, I pay my humble homage to Mr Kuldeep Wali, and pay my sincere condolences to the family to bear this irreparable loss with courage and dignity.