Geological exploration of the Amery ice shelf at Bharati station and reconnaissance surveys and preparatory work for drilling of 500 meters of ice core near Maitri would be the two main programmes of India’s 41st expedition to Antarctica.
The first batch of 23 scientists and support staff that is part of the 41st Scientific Expedition to Antarctica reached the southern white continent’s Indian Antarctic station Maitri last week, a release from the Ministry of Earth Sciences said on Monday.
Four more batches will be landing in Antarctica by air using the DROMLAN facility and chartered ice-class vessel MV Vasiliy Golovnin by mid-January 2022, it said.
The first programme encompasses geological exploration of the Amery ice shelf at Bharati station. This will help explore the link between India and Antarctica in the past. The second programme involves reconnaissance surveys and preparatory work for drilling of 500 meters of ice core near Maitri. It will help in improving the understanding of the Antarctic climate, westerly winds, sea-ice and greenhouse gases from a single climate archive for the past 10,000 years.
“The ice core drilling will be done in collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey and the Norwegian Polar Institute. In addition to accomplishing scientific programmes, it will replenish the annual supplies of food, fuel, provisions, and spares for operations and maintenance of life support systems at Maitri and Bharati,” the release said.
The Indian Antarctic programme, which began in 1981, has completed 40 scientific expeditions, and built three permanent research base stations in Antarctica: Dakshin Gangotri (1983), Maitri (1988) and Bharati (2012).
As of today, Maitri and Bharati are fully operational. The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) in Goa is an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Earth Sciences and manages the entire Indian Antarctic programme.
The Indian contingent reached Antarctica after training for snow-ice acclimatisation and survival at the Mountaineering and Skiing Institute, ITBP Auli, Uttarakhand; and a stringent sanitary protocol including a 14-day quarantine at Cape Town, South Africa.
The crew is expected to return to Cape Town in late March or early April of 2022, leaving a team of 48 members over winter. It will also bring back the winter team of the preceding 40th expedition. The 41st expedition is being led by Scientist, National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (Voyage Leader), Dr Shailendra Saini; Metrologist, India Metrological Department (Leader, Maitri Station), Huidrom Nageshwar Singh and scientist Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (Leader, Bharati Station), Anoop Kalayil Soman, the release said.