x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

India embarks on first South Pole mission

India is heading off on its first scientific expedition to the South Pole tomorrow to analyse environmental changes in the continent over the past 1,000 years.

NEW DELHI // India will kick off its first scientific expedition to the South Pole tomorrow to analyse environmental changes in the frozen continent over the past 1,000 years, the mission leader said yesterday.

Rasik Ravindra, the head of the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research, is to lead a 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 researcher said from the state-run centre headquartered in the state of Goa on India's west coast.

The expedition is part of India's ambition of drawing international attention to its scientific presence in the region, scientists say.

A Russian-built Ilyushin-76 plane will fly out Mr Ravindra's scientists to the frozen continent via Cape Town in South Africa.

The eight-member team will travel 2,400 kilometres from Maitri, the Indian research base set up in 1989 on the ice-free rocky foundation of the Schirmacher oasis in Antarctica, to the South Pole.

The scientists will travel in vehicles specially designed for ice and will carry out wide-ranging experiments on the uncharted route to analyse climatic and other changes over the past 1,000 years, Mr Ravindra said.

"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, a study of the movements of 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," Mr Ravindra said and added 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 plan to bring air samples back to the Goa laboratory, as well as rocks collected for magnetism testing.