Chapter 11: My Antarctic Programme.

Chapter 11
My Antarctic Programme.
17th Soviet Antarctic Expedition, 1971-1973
Soviet Antarctic Meteorological Centre Molodezhnaya, Antarctica

29th May 1972
Professor P. R. Pisharoty
Physical Research laboratory
Ahmedabad – 380009
Gujarat, India.
Respected Sir,
I had a mind to send you a detailed Report of my work but due to the shortage of time and emergency I have not been able to write the same. You may ask, what emergency? The diesel - electric ice-breaker ship ‘Ob’ got very much delayed for its home voyage because she was assigned the task of finding out some suitable site for another Soviet Antarctic station on the shore of the Amundsen sea. Our station is already exhausted of some important food provisions which the ship ‘Ob’ was expected to supply. But she couldn’t penetrate into the ice and reach Molodezhnaya with the result that probably we may have to continue taking sugarless black tea & coffee for the whole winter.
Also about 30 personnel from the 16th Soviet Antarctic Expedition were to leave for their home place by ‘Ob’ but as per the present worst situtation it appears that they may have to winter over again for a 2nd continuous time. However, still the ship is striving hard to find out some suitable place where the air crafts may land but this seems to be rather difficult. We were told that an aircraft may fly upto the ship and drop on her all our Antarctic mail bags, weather permitting. I have, therefore, written an open letter to the Editor, the Times of India which mostly has been written in a scientific language in detail but I think that if this open letter reaches India and is published by the various newspapers in India, even a commoner would find something interesting in that. In fact, in my letter to the Editor, I have emphasised on the need for opening some Indian Research Bases in Antarctica so as to gather some important scientific data about the South Polar Ice Cap.
My rocketsonde work is running quite smoothly. The M-100 Metrological Rockets are being fired on all Wednesdays with the additional firings on Saturdays from May through August. There are only 10 Rocket sounding personnel and thus the load of work is quite heavy with the result that I get almost no time for studying my own subject literature and also the Russian language. I had earlier requested Dr. Alexandrov to send me the rocketsonde data for all the Soviet stations along with our Thumba data. He was kind enough to accede to my request and now I am receiving the rocketsonde data for the stations :-
i) Heiss Island
ii) Volgograd
iii) Thumba
iv) Molodezhnaya.
The data is being sent to me in Rocob form from 25 km to 60 km. I am plotting and studying this data as and when I get some time out of my routine job of data gathering, data reduction, data analysis and all the calibration work. The routine job, however, keeps me busy for most of the time. I feel that all these data would prove to be very useful for my Ph. D. work and I may be able to write down my thesis within a year’s time after my return from Antarctica with your kind guidance. My present aim is to study the Upper Atmospheric Structure and Circulation over Antarctica and its Interhemispheric Comparison. I hope that we will analyse all these data and publish some good quality scientific papers after my return from Antarctica where I am striving selflessly with a self-denial of comfort in the extreme cold and darkness of the long and hostile Antarctic winter.
The station has provided me with a very old photo-camera which works properly and gives good results only once in a blue moon. I am sending you some pictures which I had photographed earlier with a half-size fully-automatic camera I had earlier purchased from the port of Punta Arenas, chile for about twenty dollars. But now this camera also is not in the working condition as it has been damaged due to an excessive cold here. Therefore, at the present I am almost without a photo-camera. In fact, the photography is rather difficult in winter because of the extremely low temperatures due to which the cameras often get frozen. The first Soviet ship is expected to sail for Antarctica from Leningrad sometime in September or October 1972. I would, therefore, request you to send me the following items:
i) Good quality photo-camera for the slides
preferably flash equipped,
ii) Some colour films,
which are not available at this station,
iii) Some black & white sensitive films,
as the station doesn’t have them here,
iv) A Movie Camera 16 mm or 35 mm whichever possible,
v) Some Video cassettes for the Movie Camera,
vi) Some good quality photo paper,
vii) Some tapes for general use.
On my return from the Antarctic I wish to carry with me a vivid picture (both coloured slides and a colour movie) of Antarctica for the people to actually see the life in this icy Antarctic continent.
I won’t stress PRL to bear the cost of all these articles. However, it may provide me whatever it can and the cost of the rest of the material may be adjusted towards my scholarship. But all these articles should be sent to me positively either at PRL cost or at my own cost because they are not at all available here in Antarctica.
I am assigning this task to PRL because I personally feel that I can get a better and more reliable stuff if purchased through PRL. Our Rocket station here has also got a 16 mm camera but the films are not there. So if the PRL sends me only colour and black & white 16 mm films, probably I can use this movie-camera but I don’t wish to have an unnecessary obligation of the Soviets on the Indians and would, therefore, appreciate receiving the cameras and the films (both colour and black & white for the photo - camera as well as movie - camera). I would also appreciate if you purchase the book entitled the Upper Atmosphere (Meteorology and Physics), by Richard A Craig, through PRl and send the same to me at Molodezhnaya in Antarctica along with the above articles, whose costs may be adjusted towards my scholarship.
It would be desirable to send all the above articles well before the first ship leaves Leningrad for Antarctica, the expected departure being sometime in September or October 1972. These articles may be sent to me either through Dr. Alexandrov, Hydromet, Moscow, or directly through :
The Arctic and Antarctic Scientific Research Institute,34 Fontanka,
Leningrad D 134 (USSR)
at the following address :
Parmjit Singh Sehra
Member (Indian Participant)
17th Soviet Antarctic Expedition, 1971-1973,
Soviet Antarctic Meteorological Centre
Molodezhnaya, Antarctica.
My present telegraphic address is:
727 Molodezhnaya (Antarctica)
It is really a pily that I get only sporadic telegrams from India. Just imagine the condition of a lone Indian at a Soviet station in the Antarctic cold completely ignorant of the language of the Russians and in addition almost altogether cut off from his homeland. I gave you two short telegrams requesting you to officially clarify the financial commitments which, however, our station director wanted to know. But I got no reply. It is really very strange. I should get at least a monthly telegrm from my own Motherland which certainly keeps this completely isolated human being in high spirits.
As I have mentioned earlier also that I have some plans of working at the Soviet Antarctic station ‘Vostok’ for some time beginning with next year. I am later intending to have a 1500 - km sledge journey for about 40 days from ‘Vostok’ to Miruy and I am seriously thinking of undertaking some short experiment during this most adventurous and risky tractor-ride. I, therefore, request you to get an approval of the same for me. Again, if some PRL Project leader has a short experiment which he wishes to conduct I would be happy if I could be of some help on such a line, because the Soviet Union’s station ‘Vostok’ is located exactly at the Geomagnetic South Pole. In such a case the literature concerning the specific experiment should be sent to me.
About the Antarctic I would mention this much that I have liked this continent so much that I have started dreaming of having our own Indian Research Bases in Antarctica in the near future. I am not sure whether this dream would become true but I have written an open letter to the nation through the Editor, the Times of Inda placing my dream before the Indian people and requesting the Editor to send its copy to the Prime Minister of India also for doing the needful in this connection.
Before I conclude, I must convey my heartfelt regards to all the dedicated and hardy PRL/ISRO/ESCES staff members and all the true citizens on whom depends the future of India. Sir! I would also appreciate receiving all the PRL News Bulletins along with all the other articles I have mentioned earlier through the first ship coming to Antarctica. I would be highly idebted and extremely thankful for all such arrangements. Looking forward to your kind help!
Respectfully yours
(Parmjit Singh Sehra)
Ist Indian Participant and Project Scientist,
17th Soviet Antarctic Expedition, 1971-1973,
Molodezhnaya, Antarctica,
The first Indian ever to winter over the South Pole
and circumnavigate and explore the Antarctic continent.

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