India to flag off its first scientific visit to South Pole



India to flag off its first scientific visit to South Pole New Delhi: India's first scientific expedition to the South Pole to commemorate the centenary of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen's feat will be flagged off here on Monday.

A eight-member team of scientists, led by 62-year-old Rasik Ravindra, Director of the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research, will embark on the treacherous journey to the South Pole from 'Maitri', India's research station in the Antarctic region.

During their 40-day journey, the scientists will conduct experiments, gather atmospheric data and collect ice cores from the frozen continent in their bid to understand the changes in the environment over past 1,000 years.

Besides Ravindra, Ajay Dhar, Javed Beg, Thamban Meloth, Asit Swain, Pradip Malhotra, Krishnamurthy and Surat Singh will be part of the team.

"The journey from Maitri to the South Pole, approximately about 3,000 kms, will also help understand climate change over the years," a senior official said.

Experiments involving geomorphology -- the study of landforms and geophysics -- which includes movements of tectonic plates are being planned.

These studies are expected to add to the knowledge of how the ancient landmass, once fused with other continents in a super-continent before being separated 200 million years ago, has evolved, they said.

While Amundsen reached the South Pole on December 14, 1911 in dog-drawn sledges, Indian scientists will use special sport utility vehicles (SUV) for their journey.

The challenging effort, even with the aid of navigational equipment and modern ice-traversing vehicles, is seen as part of India's bid to enhance its presence on the South Pole.

The team of scientists and vehicle mechanics will have to brave adverse weather conditions in the region, where it is summertime now and the highest temperature reaches 13.6 degrees Celsius below zero.

At the South Pole, the sun rises on or about September 21 and does not set again until about March 21. The winter low temperature recorded at the Amundsen Scot station at the South Pole was minus 82.8 degrees Celsius.

The wind averages 12.1 miles per hour and the closest land is actually straight down through the ice, approximately 3.2 km away.

India is also in the advanced stages of building its third research station named 'Bharti' in the Larsemann Hills region in the eastern part of the frozen continent.

India's first research station in the Antarctic region -- Dakshin Gangotri -- was established in 1983-84. It was abandoned in 1990 after it sunk in the snow partially.

-PTI