A raging pandemic couldn’t stop the scientists seeking to know the Antarctic region better as a 43 member crew of scientists, researchers, and explorers are heading to Antarctica as part of India’s 40th scientific expedition to Antarctica
Usually, the expedition team consists of 100 people but this time the ship is leaving only half of the crew due to the pandemic. The 43 member team will start their journey from Goa on Tuesday.
40th Scientific Expedition
The official statement issued by the Ministry of Earth Sciences on Monday stated that India’s 40th scientific expedition to Antarctica will leave on a ship from Goa on Tuesday with 43 members, less than half of the conventional strength of 100, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Group Director of Antarctic Operations and Infrastructure at the National Centre for Polar and Oceanic Research (NCPOR), Javed Beg revealed that the polar veteran-led team included scientists, engineers, doctors, and technicians along with the 3 polar veterans.
The team was given a formal send-off by senior officials of NCPOR, the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), which is providing fuel for the expedition, at the Mormugao Port Trust (MPT) in Vasco town of South Goa on Monday
Officials of the India Post also graced the occasion. India Post has released a special stamp celebrating the milestone.
The team will be traveling on the ice-class vessel MV Vasiliy Golovnin which will reach Antarctica in 30 days to deliver a team of 40 members to India’s Antarctic base. The ship will bring back the winter team living there as part of the previous expedition. The ship will return by April 2021, said the press release published by the Ministry.
Keeping Antarctica COVID Free
Senior Indian Oil Corporation officials have revealed that the team will reach South Africa’s Capetown from where they will be transiting to Antarctica in 18 days. 2 helicopters will be there in Cape Town for assisting the vessel in this transit to Bharati research station in Antarctica
Before their departure from Goa, the team went through a rigorous medical examination and testing in order to check their covid free status.
“The expedition leaders are under tremendous pressure to make do with half the team strength, but we place our trust in the team’s determination, ability, and resilience which has been on display time and again over the years,” said Javed Beg.
India’s Antarctic Expedition Over the Years
So far India has sent 39 expedition teams starting from 1981 when the first team with 21 scientists and staff members were sent. That iconic trip was led by Dr. SZ Qasim. In these 40 years, India has made 3 permanent bases in Antarctica. Today, the Indian Antarctic program has 2 operational stations at Maitri and Bharati which is part of the 3 permanent stations. The third station Dakshin Gangotri isn’t operational at the moment. The whole program is managed by the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Goa
The previous mission started in November 2019 with 27 projects focused on climate change, crustal evolution, environmental processes and conservation, the ecosystem of terrestrial and near-shore regions, observational research, and polar technology.
Another 2 projects with the collaboration of Japan’s National Institute of Polar Research with a team of 48 members were also in action but they completed the mission by May 2020. The mission helped in restoring the annual supplies of food, fuel, snowmobiles, and other operations and maintenance materials in Maitri and Bharati base stations.