The chapter of the Indian Antarctic Programme opened in December 1981 when the first Indian Expedition was flagged off for Antarctica from Goa. It was led by S.Z. Quasim. Subsequently, annual Antarctic expeditions have been sent through the Department of Ocean Development and the National Centre for Antarctic & Ocean Research. So far, twenty-one such expeditions have been launched, including one to the Weddell Sea; one of these was a krill expedition to the Southern Ocean.
By virtue of India’s sustained interest and demonstrative capabilities in the domain of polar science, the country has achieved the following milestones:
19 August 1983: India was admitted to the Antarctic Treaty and soon thereafter obtained Consultative Status.
1983: The permanent station Dakshin Gangotri was built, where the first Wintering was conducted.
1 October 1984: India was admitted as a member of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).
1986: India became a member of Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
1988-1989: India built its second indigenous station ‘Maitri’.
1997: India ratified the Environment Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty, thus upholding its commitment to preserve the pristine continent.
2005: India completed its first 25 years in Antarctica and launched an expedition in Dec 2005 called the Silver Jubilee Indian Antarctic Expedition.
2008: Indian Arctic Research Station Himadri to Study Climate Change
1. Dakshin Gangotri
It was India's first scientific manned station in Antarctica. The name is derived from the Gangotri Glacier which acts as the source for the river Ganges. 'Dakshin' is a Sanskrit word meaning 'south'.
This permanent Antarctic station was established during the third Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica in 1983-1984. This site was recced by members of the Second Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica in 1982-83. The construction work of the station commenced in end December 1983. The entire building was made of wood except for the outer metal scalding. It was based on a raft foundation to take care of the movement of the shelf-ice on which it was constructed. All the work was completed and the wintering team consisting of 12 members commenced living in the station by end Feb.
The station was in two wings with an interconnecting wing in the form a 'U'. It had two floors. The ground floor of one wing housed the three kerosine run generators which provided the necessary electrical power supply. The floor above this wing was used for storing the essentials for the coming one year. The other wing had a scientific laboratory, a small operation theatre for minor surgery, and the living room with a kitchenette. Above this was the living accommodation for the twelve inmates as well as an office with all communication facilities. Satellite communication through INMARSAT was the main link with India and the rest of the world. High Frequency communication equipment was the secondary mode of communications. Walkie talkies were used for communication between members with the station area. The entire station was centrally heated, using circulating hot water. The requirement of water was met by means of melting snow. The snow had to be physically shoveled in to the tank for melting. The station was designed with a minimum life span of five years. It had emergency exit doors on the roof to cater for snow accumulation and the eventual burial of the station under snow. Finally Dakshin Gangotri was abandoned in 1991. By then, in 1989, another permanent station, Maitri, was established in "Schirmacher Oasis".
The wintering team was headed by Col Sharma a scientist. The twelve members of this team were the first Indian members to spend the winter in Antarctica. They spent almost 14 months considering that they had arrived in December 1983 and departed for India in March 1985.
Dakshin Gangotri Glacier is a small tongue of polar continental ice sheet, overriding the Schirmacher Oasis of central Dronning Maud Land (cDML). It was identified by the second Indian Antarctic Expedition in 1983 and since then its snout has been monitored continuously. With the availability of this vast amount of data for the past two decades, it has become a valuable site for observing the changes in the movement of the Antarctic ice sheet under the impact of global warming. The area has primary scientific importance for glaciologists and environmental scientists.
It is India's second permanent research station in Antarctica. It was built and finished in 1989, after the first station Dakshina Gangotri was buried in ice and abandoned in 1990-91. Maitri is situated on the rocky mountainous region called Schirmacher Oasis.
India inaugurated Arctic Research Station ‘Himadri’ on July 01. India is already having a Research Station in Antarctica since 1982.
Some of the interesting features of Himadri are:
- Indian Union Minister of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences Shri Kapil Sibal inaugurated the Indian research station
equipped with state of the art facilities for round the year scientific research with special emphasis on climate change
India joins as the 11th country to have established a full-fledged research station in Arctic in addition to Britain, Germany, France, Italy, China, Japan, South Korea, The Netherlands, Sweden and Norway
located at Ny-Alesund, Svalbard archipelago and is 1200 kms from the North Pole
to be managed by the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR), an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Earth Sciences
the inaugural function at Ny-Alesund was attended by eminent polar scientists, diplomats and policy makers of various countries
on this occasion a Memorandum of Understanding on Polar research was also signed between the NCAOR and Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI)