India 3rd research base in Antarctica begins

New Delhi: India has done a soft launch of its third research station in Antarctica`s Larsemann Hills region, considered as one of the few geological windows into the history of the continent. "The construction is over. We are running it on trial basis. The winter team is there carrying out tests on various equipment and systems," Shailesh Nayak, secretary, ministry of Earth Sciences, said.

The formal launch of the research station – Bharti – is expected in November when it is summer time in the icy continent.

The research station would address the growing urge in the Indian scientific community for exploring deeper and wider areas of Antarctica for better understanding of the vast continent, said Rajesh Asthana, the leader of the 15-member team, at a brief inauguration ceremony at Larsemann Hills on March 18.

The station is situated at an unnamed promontory of land between the Strornes and Broknes peninsulas in the Larsemann Hills region of East Antarctica. The natural topography is a rocky granite hill towering approximately 90 meters above sea level.

The siting and placement of the new research station was based on a location that would minimise the amount of snow drifting, minimise the need for extensive site modification and provide the best access to the sea and sea ice.

Australia, Asia, Africa, South America and India were once part of a super-continent called Gondwanaland where the present day east coast of India shared a common border with the eastern shores of Antarctica.

Indian polar scientists want to put this theory to test by examining rocks in river basins in the Indian subcontinent and minerals in the glaciers around the Larsemann Hills.

The new station is located almost 3,000 km away from the existing `Maitri` station which has been serving the nation since its inception in 1988-89.

`Maitri`, which has been hosting summer team of about 70 members and winter team of 25 members every year since 1988-89, is the gateway for Indian scientists to venture into interior Antarctic mountains.

India`s first research station in Antarctica was Dakshin Gangotri (1983) which has been decommissioned after it got buried under ice and has now been marked as an historic site.

The government has allocated Rs 290 crore in the Union Budget 2012-12 for polar sciences and cryosphere, which covers research activities at Antarctica, Arctic and glaciers of Himalayas.