2.1 Seventeenth Expedition

The Seventeenth scientific expedition to Antarctica comprising 51 members including 36 scientists and 15 logistics personnel drawn from 18 national institutions was launched on 8th December, 1997 from Antarctic Study Centre, Goa. The expedition which was led by Mr. K.R. Sivan, an engineer from the R&D Establishment of DRDO, had a distinct impetus on the scientific component through the induction of several new experiments on bio-diversity, low frequency propagation, seismic and planetary geodetic studies, all contributing to international campaigns mounted by SCAR. Three German scientists from the University of Dresden participated in this expedition as a part of joint studies on planetary geodesy. The expedition returned to India on 31st March, 1998 leaving behind a 25 member wintering team. The following scientific and logistic tasks were performed by the Seventeenth Antarctic Team.

Scientific Accomplishments

Atmospheric Sciences

Profiling of ozone and dynamics of ozone hole by using a Laser Heterodyne System (LHS) designed to yield the vertical profile of ozone and other minor trace gases in the atmosphere upto a height of 60m was undertaken.

Geomagnetic studies to understand the dynamics of mobile current systems in the Antarctic atmosphere were carried out. Three fluxgate magnetometers and riometers were operated to obtain velocity of mobile auroral current systems that leave back geomagnetic pulsations.

Climatological and meteorological studies to generate meteorological models for understanding the patterns of Antarctic circulation in the context of global and Indian weather systems undertaken.

LF radio wave propagation studies to map the electric fields using whistlers, which are a powerful tool for exploring the ionospheric and magnetospheric interactions, were performed.

Earth Sciences

Geological Mapping and petro-geochemical sampling was carried out to cover an unmapped area of 1000 sq. km in the Kurze and Holtedahl ranges of Orvin II mountains.

Geological Evolution of Schirmacher Hills through the ongoing research on structural, petrologic, geochemical and geochronological signatures in the rocks of the Schirmacher Oasis was studied. The pressure and temperature regime under the different grades and stages of metamorphism were investigated.

Snow Drift and Albedo studies to understand the net energy exchange budget between the atmosphere and the different snow-ice terrains in Antarctica were initiated. The reflectivity of the snow cover surface, i.e. the albedo, was measured through a number of experiments under different physical conditions.

Teleseismic studies through the establishment of a permanent digital broad band seismograph to monitor the crustal disturbances and seismic activities carried out. Uplinking with the international chain of observatories in Antarctica undertaken.

Planetary Geodetic studies through the establishment of a permanent GPS observatory as a part of SCAR mounted GPS Epoch campaign initiated. This will provide accurate positions on the global reference frame which will help to monitor relative plate movements.

Medical Sciences

Studies on human physiology to understand the adaptive processes of human being was continued and complemented by new experiments on sleep awake cycle, vitamin D metabolism and neuro- behavioural responses to geomagnetism.

Human immune response mechanism influenced by geophysical and environmental parameters in Antarctic conditions was studied through several experiments with the aim to co-relate with ongoing studies on human physiology.

Biological Sciences

Biodiversity studies on snow bank fungi, moss, inhabiting fauna and lichens were taken up to understand their bio-geographical distribution pattern and taxonomic characters. The species diversity and density patterns of lichen distribution in the Schirmacher Oasis and Orwin mountains was also undertaken to determine their heavy metal content as a biomonitoring parameter in different ecological niches.

Desiccation tolerance of cyanobacteria was analysed in order to understand the floristic changes on the terrestrial habitats of certain sites and decipher the state of soluble proteins and its structure.

Engineering & Communication

Structural engineering studies were continued on condition monitoring of the structural components of the station under low temperature conditions. novel aspect of these studies included an on-line status monitoring facility from Antarctica through computer interfacing.

Communication transmission upgradation through HF & VHF propagation studies as a factor of radio-meteorological parameters initiated.

For tapping the wind energy, a wind turbine prototype system for generating power with stand-alone systems was designed.

Logistic Tasks

Some of the major time bound logistic tasks undertaken during this expedition are as follows:

Construction of a full-fledged Medical Inspection room comprising OT examination room, X-ray and dark room, sterilization room, etc., by renovating `A' Block of the station.

Relaying of the water supply pipe line using trace coil heating system.

Construction of an underground vault for permanent seismic station at Maitri.

Upkeep and restoration of the natural habitat of Maitri and its surroundings.