Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Reached Larsemann Hills

We reached the Latitude of 69 degree South and Longitude of 76 degree East this morning. This is where Larsemann Hill is.

When I had boarded the ship on the 13th February from Maitri, I thought my days of daily new experiences and excitements were over. I could not have been more wrong. Till our journey so far, the ship has opened new vistas of excitements never experienced before. The ship will not anchor on the coast line of Larsemann Hill. It will continue to move in circles at speed of half or less knot. The scene around us is mind boggling. So many icebergs, all of different shapes and sizes, and each different from the other! I wish I could send you the photographs right away, though the photographs, how vivid they may be, will never be able to capture the awe of these icebergs. And since the ship is circling, each iceberg is presenting its different shape and design with each turn. Any one specializing in the study of ocean (Oceanography) and glaciers (Glaciology) will be delighted for his life time to come here. And it is also a paradise for iceberg climbers. I have been fortunate here to obtain Mariners’ Handbook to know about ice and icebergs. That there will be a nomenclature of icebergs too was a revelation.

About Larsemann Hill

Why: Larsemann Hill presents a very different scenario as compared to the sites of India’s earlier stations, Maitri and Dakshin Gangotri. This area is free of ice and consists of a large number of scattered islands full of rocks and providing very different climate and working environment. The average temperature is 6-7 C higher than that of Maitri and the average wind speed/gust is also lower at 30 knots. Thus, being landlocked it is a safer terrain. It is also closer to Australia (? Approx 1400 km), and India too being at the same longitude.
In any station in Antarctica the major challenge is organizing logistics and managing convoys in all-weather stations. For Maitri, which is approx 120 km from the Indian ice shelf or Indian bay, managing convoys with the help of snow vehicles is a major task for the station commander. This problem will be greatly reduced at Larsemann Hill. The station will be as close to the shore line as 05 km. However, for the ship to come as close to the shore line as possible, bathymetric studies will be required. Bathymetry is the scientific study of the ocean bed. The plan is to design and fabricate a metallic barge measuring 40 ft with self-propelled engine to ferry at least two containers from the ship to the shore line. With the help of cranes, the containers would be hauled up on a track reaching 70 m height and then towed to the Indian station by heavy duty vehicles. The new station will be built at a height of approx 45 m above mean sea level (msl).

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