Tuesday, April 1, 2008

4 Months 60 Degrees South

Originally meant for posting March 17th

On 14th March I completed four months in Antarctica below 60 degrees South. Once we cross this latitude we are no longer in Antarctica.

How should I look at the last four months: an achievement, a dream fulfilled, another name on the list of places that I have visited, or an adventure?

To be honest, coming to Antarctica is no longer an adventure, not the way I have come here. Adventure it was when great explorers like Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen came here taking all the risks, ready to save lives and willing to sacrifice own life. However, since then the world has changed far too much. Earlier, coming to Antarctica was itself an adventure. Now people have to devise means to discover adventure and set records in Antarctica by doing things no one has done before. For example, skiing all the way to the South Pole, or using kites to reach South Pole, or being the youngest to reach there, or to be the first to cross the Trans-Antarctic Mountains. Current advances in travel, communications, computers and information technology have made things far too easier for someone like me to come here.

What was my contribution in making my visit to Antarctica possible? Well, I only had to submit a reasonably viable scientific project to NCAOR to be undertaken at the Antarctica. After that it was all the efforts of the Logistics team of NCAOR to plan entire visit for me and the rest of the group. My travel both ways, coming to Antarctica by air and returning by sea, was taken care of by the Logistics team. At Maitri we all got heated cabins to stay; had the luxury of 24 hour hot and cold water supply; round the clock power supply; email and telephone facilities; and choice and variety of food items. We had assistance of huge ice class ship, Ilyushin cargo plane, helicopters, and snow vehicles to assist us in all our needs and make life far too simple for us in Antarctica. If anything was lacking it could be flown from Cape Town during the summer months when Ilyushin flights were operational.

I have truly found Antarctica an amazing place. It is unique in all its characteristics, too numerous to mention here. The temperatures, snow and ice, freezing of ocean, glaciers and icebergs of Antarctica are unparallel. The adaptation of wild life, penguins and seals for example, to survive here is unique. However, what I will remember the most later will be the time I spent with members in Antarctica when they shared their experiences, frustrations, achievements, aspirations, and dreams.

I have gained immensely by coming to Antarctica in many ways besides knowledge or experiences. I could not have been richer elsewhere. I think it has widened my horizon in relation to time and space. Difficult to express, but is it like looking at the whole existence of Mankind as inconsequential?

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