Saturday, March 15, 2008

Visit to Zhong Shang (Chinese Station)

Originally meant for posting on March 4th.

Today I had a very good day. Though I had my galley duty and I was up and about at 5 am in the morning, the leader asked me at 7 am along with a few others to get ready to leave within half an hour. Of course I was ready within 15 minutes after requesting another member to carry on galley duty. I would do his tomorrow. I did not ask why since I had a feeling that it could be to visit Russian and Chinese stations. He had been trying for last few days to contact them for permission to visit their stations. The third in the Larsemann Hills is the Australian station, Davis, but that is far away at 120 km. We were at our proposed site at 8 am where the leader told us that we might visit these two stations weather permitting. Last night the satellite picture had shown a big system traveling towards the ship quite fast. The temp was -5 C and with wind chill it was -15 C. Right now it is quite desolate place. I have said earlier that looks quite beautiful; however, if I have to stay there all by myself even with the assurance of being picked up half an hour later, I shall get panicky. At about 9:45 am it became quite windy. I had gone out to visit a frozen lake, and when I came back to the igloo hut, one member told me with a sad tone that the proposed visit could be called off. I advised him to learn this lesson to never feel disappointed in Antarctica.

The weather improved after some time and ten of us left in two choppers, first for the Chinese station, Zhong Shan.

China or Chinese always invoked earlier a feeling of being mysterious and secretive, but now they bring about a sense of awe. Power of wealth can change how people look upon you. We were not sure how Chinese would greet us and were ready for a cold and indifferent welcome. However, we could not be more wrong. They greeted us smilingly and warmly. The American culture was clearly visible when they treated us with all kinds of canned soft drinks. The leader immediately sent for an interpreter. This young fellow was an Architect and interior designer who was spending summer here since China is rebuilding its station. The current structures are 18 years old, but to me these also appeared very reasonable and spacious. They had done their landscaping quite imaginatively with stones and boulders. This station has the advantage of a big flat area. It is also very close to the sea. Two more people joined us, one with professional video camera and another young girl with latest Nikon Digital SLR, D80. Both were journalists and working for United News of China or Shanghai News Service. My long flowing hair and goatee perhaps fascinated the young lady, Zhang, and she wanted quite a few of my close ups. I tried asking other Chinese members if the journalists always write flattering and good reports or they could be critical also. I perhaps could not make myself clear, or the deputy was too clever. He said everything is so good about this place like glaciers, icebergs, snow etc. They opened all the laboratories for us to visit and interact with the scientists working there. Normally, 20 members winter there; however, at this time there were about 90 people because of the construction activity. Seven members were women. The station doctor is a surgeon. There is a close cooperation with the close by Russian station, Progress, for medical and other technical assistance. The Antarctic scientific activity of China are organized by China Antarctica Research Expedition (CHINARE).


Anonymous said...

hi uncle, have been following you sporadically, but couldn't comment. loved the earlier bit about the birds and pack-ice; couldn't agree more about living centrally. wonder whether the chinese had anything to say about tibet? after all, the landscape's similar.


Anonymous said...

Respected Sir,
Ankush here, hope you remember me! I just came to know about your adventure. It is really great. The first thing which came to my mind was - will I ever get this opportunity to step on that part of world? And your idea of Blogging is also superb. I will follow your messages. I can think of extra effort and time you must be putting in to maintain this blog. It is indeed heartening to see how you people are celebrating our festivals like Shiva Ratri.

I wish you and your whole team a very happy and colourful (I am sure you must have got some abir-gulal with you) Holi.

Ankush (UK)

maplesugar said...

Happy Holi! My name is Jasmine and I have been reading your blog for a long time, Sudhir Uncle. I write for some Indian publications in Canada and am hoping that you will agree to write an account of your adventure or help me pick some of your entries to pitch to an editor for publication. I just think your adventure has been so interesting! I have read about so many Antartic adventures- like Shackleton's book, and I am thrilled to bits hearing about Indians camping out on that icy continent eating their Git's packages and saying "bole sonyihaal". All of you explorers are such an inspiring breed. Please let me know if you have any particular entries you are fond of and if you agree with my passing on your work. I am sure that Indo-Canadians will be very interested in your stories!
all the best,

maplesugar said...

Actually I am also really hoping for an interview with you- even by email is fine! Do let me know if you can oblige.

my best,

Anonymous said...

Hi Jasmine,

Is there an email address that Dr Khandelwal can write to you at?



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