On January 5, the Indian National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCPOR) launched its 40th Antarctic expedition. The 43 members of the expedition are expected to reach Antarctica in 30-45 days on the Russian icebreaker MV “Vasiliy Golovnin” chartered from FESCO. The icebreaker launched in Goa and is scheduled to return to India in April 2021.
The chartered vessel will first sail to Cape Town and will take 5 more expedition members on board. The icebreaker is expected to reach Antarctica in 30-45 days, depending on ice conditions, and bring back the 48 researchers and technicians who have been at the two Indian stations in Antarctica for the past 15 months.
A spokesman for NCPOR said the expedition was limited to supporting ongoing scientific projects on climate change, geology and ocean observation, as well as environmental monitoring. In addition, the “Maitri” and “Bharati” stations will be supplied with food, fuel, groceries and substitutes and the last overwintering team will be taken back.
India officially acceded to the Antarctic Treaty on August 1, 1983.
Indian stations in Antarctica
India currently actively operates two polar stations on the Antarctic continent, the “Maitri” and the “Bharati” stations. The first “Dakshin Gangotris” station was already abandoned in 1991.
The Maitri Station is India’s second permanent research station in Antarctica. Work on the station was first started by the Indian Expedition, which landed there in late December 1984 with a team led by Dr. B.B. Bhattacharya. Dr. D.P. Joshi, the team’s surgeon, was the first camp commander of the Maitri tent camp. The construction of the first huts was started by the IV. Antarctic Expedition and completed in 1989, shortly before the first facility, Dakshin Gangotri Station had sunk into the ice due to constant snow drifts and had to be abandoned in 1990-91.
Maitri is located in a rocky region called Schirmacher Oasis. The Indian station is only 5 km away from the Russian research station “Novolazarevskaya”. The Schirmacher Oasis was also the location of the first German station, the “Georg Forster” station operated by the former GDR.
Maitri station has modern research facilities for various studies like biology, earth science, glaciology, atmospheric science, meteorology, cold region engineering, communication, human physiology and medicine. It can accommodate 25 people in winter. Fresh water is provided by a freshwater lake called Lake Priyadarshini.
There is a runway for aircraft on bare ice 10 kilometres away, operated by the Antarctic Logistics Center International (ALCI).
The Bharati Station is a permanent Antarctic research station. It is India’s third Antarctic research facility and one of two active Indian research stations along with Maitri Station. India has had the Bharati Station built as a modern structure in the area adjacent to the Larsemann Hills in East Antarctica. The elements were manufactured in Duisburg and transported to Antarctica by ship via Antwerp and Cape Town. They were eventually joined together in the Larsmann Hills region as the Bharati Research Station. The design was created by BOF Architekten and realized together with IMS Ingenieurs-Gesellschaft, both from Hamburg. This was preceded by a competition in December 2006.
The research station has been in operation since March 18, 2012. Since its completion, India is one of nine nations with multiple stations within the Antarctic Circle. Bharati’s research mission focuses on oceanographic studies and the phenomenon of continental rifting. It also facilitates research to refine the current understanding of the geological history of the Indian subcontinent.
The Dakshin Gangotris Station was established during the third Indian expedition to Antarctica in 1983-84. This was the first time that an Indian team spent a winter in Antarctica to carry out scientific work. The station was built in eight weeks by a team of 81 people. The construction was completed by the end of January 1984 with the help of the Indian Army and the Indian National Day on January 26,1985 was celebrated at the station along with the Soviets and East Germans from the nearby Georg Forster Station.
It was an unmanned station built with indigenous Indian equipment and powered by solar energy. The station was fully computerized to record all data that was explored. It was built from prefabricated wooden parts and was intended as a permanent station. It had an Inmarsat communications terminal as well as an amateur radio station.
Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal