New Delhi, April 18: The Indian scientific expedition to Antarctica successfully returned to Cape Town last week after completing a journey of 12,000 nautical miles in 94 days, including stopovers, the Ministry of Earth Sciences said on Saturday.
This achievement concludes four successful decades of India's scientific endeavour in the continent, it said.
"The 40th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica (40-ISEA) hosted by the Ministry of Earth Sciences successfully returned to Cape Town on April 10, 2021, after completing a journey of 12,000 nautical miles in 94 days, including stopovers," the ministry said in a statement.
The 40-ISEA comprised scientists, engineers, doctors, and technicians, who began their journey from the Mormugao Port of Goa to Antarctica in January, it said.
The team reached its destination Bharati station on February 27 and Maitri station on March 8 in Antarctica, according to the statement.
Bharati and Maitri are India's permanent research base stations.
The stations are approachable only during the austral summer season between November and March.
On its way to Antarctica, the voyage team deployed four autonomous Ocean Observing DWS (Directional Wave Spectra) wave drifters between 35-degree and 50-degree south latitudes in collaboration with Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) Hyderabad, the statement said.
The drifters would transmit real-time data of spectral characteristics of waves, sea surface temperatures, and sea-level atmospheric pressure to INCOIS, which will help validate weather predictions in a big way, it said.
The 40-ISEA was on board the MV Vasiliy Golovnin, a chartered ice-class vessel, the statement said.
It made stopovers at Cape Town for picking up helicopters and replenishing fuel and provisions and at the Indian research bases Bharati and Maitri for resupply and changeover of winter crew, it said.
The expedition positioned a team of 20 personnel at Bharati led by Atul Suresh Kulkarni from the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism and 21 personnel at Maitri led by Ravindra Santosh More from the Indian Meteorological Department, the statement said.
In the spirit of international cooperation in Antarctic science, MV Vasiliy Golovnin took a slight denture while returning to Cape Town in March and retrieved two remotely operated Norwegian Ocean observing instruments -- a sea glider and a sail buoy, the ministry said.
These ocean observing systems deployed during the onward journey and retrieval during the return voyage will help to fill in the gaps of the scantily available information in the Indian Ocean sector of the Southern Ocean, it said.
The 40-ISEA was conducted under innumerable challenges due to the persisting coronavirus pandemic, the statement said.
Necessary measures were taken to keep the Antarctic free of coronavirus. The team was subjected to a stringent medical examination by the Goa Medical College before departure and was quarantined for 14 days before boarding the ship. - PTI