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India in Antarctica

India in Antarctica

Introduction

  • Antarctica is Earth’s southernmost continent. It contains the geographic South Pole and is situated in the Antarctic region of the Southern Hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle, and is surrounded by the Southern Ocean.
  • At 14,000,000 square kilometres (5,400,000 square miles), it is the fifth-largest continent. About 98% of Antarctica is covered by ice that averages 1.9 km in thickness, which extends to all but the northernmost reaches of the Antarctic Peninsula.
  • The Indian Antarctic Programme is a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional programme under the control of the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research, Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India.
  • Under the programme, atmospheric, biological, earth, chemical, and medical sciences are studied by India, which has carried out 35 scientific expeditions to the Antarctic till now.

The Different Research Stations | India in Antarctica

  • Dakshin Gangotri: Dakshin Gangotri was the first Indian scientific research base station established in Antarctica, as a part of the Indian Antarctic Program. Located at a distance of 2,500 kilometres from the South Pole, it was established during the third Indian expedition to Antarctica in 1983/84. This was the first time an Indian team spent a winter in Antarctica to carry out scientific work.
  • Maitri: Maitri is India’s second permanent research station in Antarctica. It was built and finished in 1989. Maitri is situated on the rocky mountainous region called Schirmacher Oasis. India also built a freshwater lake around Maitri known as Lake Priyadarshini.
  • Bharti: Bharti, India’s latest research station operation since 2012. It has been constructed to help researchers work in safety despite the harsh weather. It is India’s first committed research facility and is located about 3000 km east of Maitri. Bharti made India an elite member of the club of nine nations that have multiple stations in the region.
  • Sagar Nidhi: In 2008, India commissioned the Sagar Nidhi, the pride of the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), for research. An ice class vessel, it can cut through thin ice of 40 cm depth and is the first Indian vessel to navigate Antarctic waters.

India’s 11th Expedition To Antarctic

  • This is the 11th expedition of an Indian mission to the Southern Ocean, or Antarctic Ocean.
  • On board the vessel is 34 scientific staff from India, which is an 18-institution team led by Dr Anoop Mahajan.
  • The first mission took place between January and March 2004.
  • Objective- The mission mainly aims to understand the influence of the Southern Ocean across ecosystem and atmospheric changes; and how it affects the tropical climate and weather conditions.
  • The cycle – The carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere goes to the Antarctic and polar regions, through atmospheric circulation.
  • Since the temperature is very low there, these gases are absorbed and converted into dissolved inorganic or organic carbon.
  • Through water masses and circulation, it is coming back to tropical regions. Since it is warmer in these areas, it re-enters the atmosphere.
  • It is this cycle, which the mission will help understand better.
  • Sampling – For this, the team is collecting air and water samples from around 60 stations along the cruise track.

What are six core projects?  | India in Antarctica

  • Study hydrodynamics and biogeochemistry of the Indian Ocean sector of the Southern Ocean; involves sampling seawater at different depths. This will help understand the formation of Antarctic bottom water.
  • Observations of trace gases in the atmosphere, such as halogens and dimethyl sulphur from the ocean to the atmosphere. This will help improve the parameterizations that are used in global models.
  • Study of organisms called coccolithophores that have existed in the oceans for several million years. Their concentrations in sediments will give a picture of past climate.
  • Investigate atmospheric aerosols and their optical and radiative properties. Continuous measurements will quantify impact on Earth’s climate.
  • Study the Southern Ocean’s impact on Indian monsoons. The sediment core taken from the bottom of the ocean will be looked for signs.
  • Dynamics of the food web in the Southern Ocean. This is important for safeguarding catch and planning sustainable fishing.

About Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica (ISEA)     

  • ISEA is a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional program conducted every year by the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences. It was started in 1981.
  • It has gained global acceptance after India signed Antarctic Treaty. Subsequently, India had constructed Dakshin Gangotri Antarctic research base in 1983. It was superseded by the Maitri base from 1990.
  • India’s newest base in Antarctica, Bharati, was commissioned in 2015. It is constructed out of 134 shipping containers.

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