October 31, 2010

India Sends First Expedition To South Pole

An Indian mission leader said Saturday that the country will have its first scientific expedition to the South Pole on Monday to analyze environmental changes in the frozen continent over the past 1,000 years.

Rasik Ravindra, head of the National Center for Antarctic and Ocean Research, is going to lead the team of seven Indian scientists on the 40-day expedition from an Indian research base in the Antarctic to the South Pole.

"No one has taken the route we will be taking to the South Pole," the 62-year-old researcher told AFP from the state-run centre headquartered in the seaside Goa resort state.

Scientists say that the expedition is part of India's ambition of drawing international attention to its scientific presence in the desolate, icy region.

A Russian-built llyushin-76 plane will fly out Ravindra's scientists to the frozen continent.

"We will then traverse up 1,200 feet (3,300 metres) to the South Pole from Maitri, one of our Antartica bases which is 100 metres (330 feet) above sea level," he said.

Maitri was set up in 1989 on the ice-free rocky foundation of the Schirmacher oasis in Antarctica.

The eight-member team will travel 1,488 miles from Maitri to the South Pole.

Ravindra said the scientists will travel in vehicles designed for ice and will carry out a wide-range of experiments on the uncharted route to analyze climatic and other changes over the past 1,000 years.

"We will conduct meteorological experiments, record humidity, temperatures, wind speed and atmospheric pressures during the 20-day trip to the South Pole and other experiments would be conducted on our way back," he said.

The experiments include geomorphology, which is the study of the tectonic plates.

"We chose the expedition because no-one has gone on this track and things have changed over time so new data on variations will be available to us," he said.

"Everything is now linked to global warming," Ravindra told AFP, adding that the team would spend just one or two days at the South Pole.

"There is no point in trying to re-invent the wheel as a US research station team is already working there," he said.

The team plans to take air samples and bring them back to the Goa laboratory, along with rocks collected for magnetism testing.

Another official said the research is expected to "add to the knowledge of how the ancient landmass, once fused with other continents in a super-continent before being separated 200 million years ago, has evolved."


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