India's first South Pole expedition takes off on Monday

To be flagged off on Monday by Union Science Minister Prithviraj Chavan, the first Indian expedition to the South Pole may reach the southernmost tip of the earth by the third week of November. And when they finally arrive at the 90 degrees south latitude to hoist the Tricolour, they will be greeted by lots of sastrugis (irregular ridges or grooves formed on snow surface) in an otherwise featureless South Pole.

While India has been undertaking expeditions to Antarctica since 1981, a scientific South Pole expedition has been planned for the first time in three decades. All Indian expeditions to Antarctica were limited to one corner of a huge continent.

Though adventure expedition to the South Pole was undertaken by the armed forces and sports enthusiasts, global geopolitical realities have compelled India to undertake the Rs 3 crore scientific expedition. At the moment, no country can exploit the resources of Antarctica, which is considered as a common heritage of mankind. But with the global population on the rise, a fierce battle on how to share the Antarctica resources is likely after 2040.

Antarctica holds 75 per cent of the world’s fresh water. It also has enormous amounts of natural resources such as fresh water, flora and fauna, minerals, oil and coal. The icy continent may have large deposits of minerals, oils (about 45,000 million barrels and roughly 115 trillion cubic feet of gas) and coal (about 11 per cent of the world’s total).
The Indian expedition is taking place on the eve of the world’s celebration of the human conquering of the South Pole in 1911, officials said.

Scientists will travel in ice vehicles carrying equipment like dual frequency ground penetrating radar, shallow ice-coring machine, digital magnetometer, vehicle-mounted weather station and high-pixel digital camera and a video camera. They will bring samples whose analysis can provide clue to researchers how climate has changed in the last one thousand years.

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