Antarctica “the white continent” is the fifth largest continent in the world. Antarctica comes from the Greek word “antarktike,” which means “opposite to the north”. Almost 98% of Antarctica is covered by ice. It is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent on earth with the cleanest air in the world. It plays a vital role in the global oceanic and climatic systems.  Its unique geological conditions make it extremely valuable for all types of scientific research. Politically, Antarctica’s status remains neutral. It is regulated by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty. Many countries have set up research stations on this unique region to carry out scientific studies. The Indian Antarctic Programme was initiated in 1981 with the first Indian expedition to Antarctica.

In a total strength of 83 members, there were two ladies in the Third expedition, the marine biologist Dr.Aditi Pant, and the structural geologist Prof.Sudipta Sengupta. This expedition included studies in the field of meteorology, radio wave propagation, geology, geophysics, oceanography, marine biology, microbiology, upper atmosphere, chemistry and glaciology.  The expedition left Goa on December 3, 1983 and returned on March 29, 1984, staying at Antarctica from December 26 to March 1, 1984.  This was the first time an Indian team spent a winter in Antarctica to carry out scientific work. 

India’s first station Dakshin Gangotri was built in 1983 but was buried in ice and abandoned around 1991.It was later excavated and used as a supply base. The second permanent station Maitri was built in 1989, equipped to carry out research in various disciplines. Novolazarevskaya, a research station of Russia is only 4.5km east of India’s Maitri Station.

India’s third research station Bharathi is in operation since 2012, enabling researchers work in safety despite the harsh weather conditions. India also built a freshwater lake around Maitri called Lake Priyadarshini.

Aditi Pant is inspired by the book The Open Sea by Alister Hardy while she was doing her BSc at the University of Pune, she did MS in marine sciences in the University of Hawaii, and PhD on physiology of marine algae in London University. Under the severe and rough weather conditions Dr. Aditi Pant analyzed the continent for four months and came out with wonderful discoveries. This noted Indian oceanographer also participated in the Fifth Indian expedition to Antarctica and did research in the fields of oceanography and geology.

Sudipta Sengupta is a professor in structural geology in Jadavpur University, Calcutta. She was graduated and obtained her Ph.D. degree from Jadavpur University. During her first time Expedition to Antarctica, she conducted pioneering geological studies in the Schirmacher Hills of East Antarctica. Sengupta has combined geological field studies with laboratory experiments and theoretical analyses. She visited Antarctica for the second time as a member of the Ninth Indian Expedition to Antarctica.

Both the ladies received ‘Antarctica Award’ from the Government of India.

 

References for further study. Search in the internet for

1. National Centre  for  Antarctic and ocean research 

2. India's Antarctica station at par with world: Geologist Sudipta Sengupta  

3. Aditi Pant The First Indian Women to Reach Antarctica Region

 

Blog written by

Dr. Chaganty Krishnakumari,

Retired reader in Chemistry from S.C. Women’s College, Kothagudem, Telangana

Kakatiya University, Warangal.

Chaganty_krishnakumari@yahoo.com