2. ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION AND POLAR SCIENCE

The inception of polar science in the country started with the launching of the first Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica in 1981. So far eighteen annual expeditions have been successfully launched to the icy continent. In addition, an expedition to the Weddell Sea and one for Krill assessment studies in the Antarctic waters have also been undertaken.


The Indian station `Maitri' situated in the Central Dronning Maudland area of east Antarctica has provided the platform to more than 1250 personnel drawn from about 50 national research laboratories, institutes and universities for conducting experiments in all the major disciplines of polar science. Specialised logistic support for the expeditions is also being ably provided by the Indian Army and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) laboratories.

The ability to conduct front ranking science through the maintenance of a permanent base in Antarctica has ensured for India a pre-eminent role as a Consultative Member in the Antarctic Treaty System since 1983. The long term scientific strategy of India in Antarctica has been designed particularly to address the issues of national priority and at the same time focus on common global concerns which are shaped and impacted by the continent. This has prompted the initiation of several international collaborative experiments in various domains of polar science with Germany, Italy, Argentina, Iran, Peru and USA.

Even while using Antarctica as a platform for conducting scientific research, India has always recognised the importance of preserving the pristine nature of this continent which controls intricate global processes of the earth. To uphold this commitment, India - an original votary of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, has ratified this Protocol and is actively participating in the Committee on Environment Protection (CEP) established during the last Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in June, 1998. Our long-term commitments and capabilities in polar science have been further demonstrated by the establishment of the first Polar Research Laboratory of the country, Antarctic Study Centre at Vasco da Gama, Goa which was converted into an autonomous institution of the Department, during September, 1998.

The scientific and logistic tasks accomplished during the Seventeenth Expedition (1997-98) and the objectives set forth for the Eighteenth expedition launched in December 1998 are summarised below:

2.1 XVII Indian Antarctic Expedition
2.2 XVIII Indian Antarctic Expedition Expedition
2.3 Antarctic Study Centre, Goa