Antarctic odessey

For the 15th time since 1981, Indian scientists sailed from Goa for Antarctica in early December, 1995. "Our purpose of this expedition is not that scientists should repeat themselves year after year. The nation is watching us very closely. Whatever resources we put there are the resources of the people of this country," Union minister of state for ocean development, Eduardo Faleiro, told the team just before the voyage.

India's first Antarctic station, "Dakshin Gangotri", was established in 1984. The second base, "Maitri", was set up in 1988, some 80 km south of Dakshin Gangotri. Officials say, India's contribution to Antarctic science has been immense.

So far, scientists have mapped 10,000 sq km in Antarctica. Biotechnologists are searching for potential uses of Antarctic microorganisms. Studies on ice dynamics and temperature variations; Antarctica's meteorological parameters; Ozone level, green house gases and sea level rise, and vehicle and helicopter performance tests in Antarctica have been conducted.

During this mission, the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, plans to undertake a pioneering shrimp krill-fishing expedition. The Defence Agricultural Research Laboratory plans to experiment with protected polar vegetable production. Dehradun's Wildlife Institute of India will study population dynamics of seals and avian taxa and monitor it. The All India institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, will probe the effects of Antarctic conditions on human metabolism. Jadavpur University, Calcutta, is working on a project to study the structural, petrological, geochemical and geochronological signatures in Antarctica's rocks.