India marks four successful decades of scientific endeavour in Antarctica with the return of the 40th Scientific Expedition to Antarctica in April 2021
By PIB Delhi
The 40th Scientific Expedition to Antarctica (40-ISEA) hosted by the Ministry of Earth Sciences successfully returned to Cape Town on April 10, 2021, after completing a journey of ~12 thousand nautical miles in 94 days, including stopovers. This achievement concludes four successful decades of India’s scientific endeavour in the continent of peace and cooperation.
The 40-ISEA comprised Indian scientists, engineers, doctors, and technicians, who began their journey from the Mormugao Port of Goa to Antarctica on January 07, 2021. The team reached its destination station Bharati on February 27, 2021, and Maitri on March 08, 2021. Bharati and Maitri are India’s permanent research base stations in Antarctica. The stations are approachable only during the austral summer season between November and March. On its way to Antarctica, the voyage team deployed four autonomous Ocean Observing DWS (Directional Wave Spectra) wave drifters between 35-degree and 50-degree south latitudes in collaboration with Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) Hyderabad. The drifters would transmit real-time data of spectral characteristics of waves, sea surface temperatures, and sea-level atmospheric pressure to INCOIS, Hyderabad, which will help validate weather predictions in a big way.
The 40-ISEA was onboard the MV VasiliyGolovnin, a chartered ice-class vessel. It made stopovers at Cape Town for picking up helicopters and replenishing fuel and provisions and at the Indian research bases Bharati and Maitri for resupply and changeover of winter crew. The expedition positioned a team of 20 personnel at Bharati led by Mr Atul Suresh Kulkarni from the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism and 21 personnel at Maitri led by Mr Ravindra Santosh More from the Indian Meteorological Department.
In the spirit of international cooperation in Antarctic science, MV VasiliyGolovnin took a slight denture while returning to Cape Town in March 2021 and successfully retrieved two remotely operated Norwegian Ocean observing instruments (a sea glider and sail buoy) at ~67 degrees South. These Ocean observing systems deployed during the onward journey and retrieval during the return voyage will help to fill in the gaps of the scantily available information in the Indian Ocean sector of the Southern Ocean.
The 40-ISEA was conducted under innumerable challenges due to the persisting Corona virus pandemic. Necessary measures were taken to keep the Antarctic free of coronavirus. The team was subjected to a stringent medical examination by the Goa Medical College before departure and was quarantined for 14 days before boarding the ship.
After accomplishing several scientific objectives, changeover of winter crew, and Bharati and Maitri’s resupply,the 40-ISEA Indian contingent returned to Cape Town on April 10, 2021, marking four decades of success of the country’s scientific endeavour in Antarctica.