CHAPTER 4: My Antarctic Interviews

My Antarctic Interviews
4.1 Introduction
While aboard the vessel ‘Navarin’, I was twice officially interviewed, one was my Radio Interview conducted by the Captain of the ship, Comerade U.K. Karlov and the other one was my TV Interview conducted by the Special Correspondent of the ship, Comerade M.I. Delshdov. Both the interviews were broadcast and telecast from the Radio and TV Stations in Moscow and the texts of the Interviews also appeared in all the leading Soviet newspapers. The English version of the texts is given below.
4.2 The Radio Interview Text
"I, Captain U.K. Karlov of the diesel-electric ship Navarin, interviewed Mr. Parmjit Singh Sehra, Indian participant in the 17th Soviet Antarctic Expedition, as desired by the Radio Moscow. The text of this interview is as given below:
Mr. Parmjit Singh Sehra did his Master of Science (M.Sc.) degree in Physics from the University of Allahabad in 1969. Now, he is specialising in Upper Atmosphere Physics at the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India under the guidance of Professor P.R. Pisharoty.
He has come to Antarctica principally to study the Upper Atmosphere Physics by sounding Meteorological rockets. He would be working in collaboration with the Soviet team at the Soviet Antarctic station Molodezhnaya all the year round. Calibration of M-100 Meteorological rocket payload sensors, data processing, data reduction, and data analysis would be his main jobs at the station Molodezhnaya, Antarctica. After collecting the meteorological data such as atmospheric temperature, pressure, density and the winds up to about 100 km altitude, he would compare these data with those of the other stations such as Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) in India and other meteorological rocket network stations in the northern and the sothern hemispheres .
He will be the first Indian explorer-scientist ever to participate in any Soviet Antarctic Expedition, and also the first Indian ever to winter over the South Pole and circumnavigate and explore the Antarctic continent with his participation in our Expidition.
He will be working throughout the year at the Soviet Antarctic Meteorological Centre ‘Molodezhnaya’ and has a desire of working at the inland Antarctic station ‘Vostok’ situated at the Pole of Cold and also at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole station located at the Geographic South Pole which is operated by the USA.. He also plans to visit all the Soviet Antarctic stations before returning home. Now he has correspondence with Dr. Alexandrov, Chief of the Hydrometeorological Services (HMS) of the USSR, Moscow. He hopes to have more contacts with the Russian scientists in the near future.
On board our ship ‘Navarin’, he cannot work on his scheduled programme because there are no such facilities here. However, we keep him quite busy, e.g., he gladly works as a helmsman and thus helps us in steering the course of our ship. He is also learning the Russian language in which he has made quite a good progress, especially in reading it. However, he faces some difficulties while conversing in Russian. All our crew and staff members address him by the nickname ‘Pasha’ which he also likes.
He feels himself excellent in Antarctica, although some Soviet people frightened him about the hardships of living in Antarctica and also doubted his adaptability to the extreme hard climatic conditions of this icy continent on simple reasons that he comes from a hot and sunny country, India, and that he did not undergo any special physiological and psychological tests before coming here. He is very confident of wintering in the Antarctic quite trouble-free because he is already used to live in the extreme climate of his native place ‘Punjab’, where the temperature varies from below the freezing point to above 45°C.
Moreover, leading a life full of ventures and adventures is his personal hobby, and he has already undertaken adventurous trips to far off places under various missions such as moon-lit-night cycling and skating etc. He thinks that not only he but also every individual of his country could very easily live and work in Antarctica.
On board our ship ‘Navarin’, he feels quite well and never feels lonely. He is friendly with all our crew and staff members and, especially, very friendly with the Chief-mate, Vitaly Evanovich Pashenichney who helps him in learning the Russian language. He finds very many things common in his native food and our Russian food, especially in the vegetables. Specifically, he likes our stewed-fruit ‘Compote’ very much. He hopes that his work in Antarctica would be quite useful to him for his Ph.D. Degree for which he is already working at the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India under the guidance of Professor P.R. Pisharoty, a world renowned scientist of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
From my own behalf, I will add that he is really very well prepared for wintering in the deep freeze of Antarctica. He will be the first Indian ever to do so. Now he is dressing very lightly and while walking on the deck and the bridge of our ship, he wears only the open shoes (chappals) and also does not wear the special warm clothing, the Antarctic suit. He has a good personality and makes a very good impression. Above all, he is very sociable, honest and sincere and is liked by all of us.
Captain U.K. Karlov, diesel-electric ship Navarin.”
4.3 The Television Interview Text
Mr. Parmjit Singh Sehra is a lone Indian participant in the 17th Soviet Antarctic Expedition. He will be the first Indian ever to winter over the South Pole and circumnavigate and explore the Antarctic continent and also the first scientist from India ever to work at the South Polar Ice Cap with the Soviets. He is a resident of village ‘Bhana’ situated in the Hoshiapur District of Punjab, India. He graduated himself from the Panjab University in 1967 and later had his M.Sc. (Master of Science) degree in Physics from the University of Allahabad in 1969. Now he is a Research Scientist at the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad and is specialising in the ‘Upper Atmospheric Physics’ for his Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) degree under the guidance of Professor P.R. Pisharoty. He will be working at the Soviet Antarctic Station ‘Molodezhnaya’ all the year round and also at our other Antarctic Stations including some more Antarctic stations belonging to some other countries such as the McMurdo Sound and the Ammdsen-Scott South Pole stations of the USA, etc., during his participation in the 17th Soviet Antarctic Expedition.
Meet Mr. Singh :
I am very happy that I could get an opportunity to meet all of you. On my own behalf and on behalf of all our countrymen, I send our heartiest best wishes and compliments to all of you (Spoken in Hindi).
Question : Being a member of the 17th Soviet Antarctic Expedition, you had a voyage of more than two months on board our diesel-electric ship ‘Navarin’. Naturally, during this period we could come closer and know one another in a better way. The seamen say that the sea brings the people closer. Do you agree with this opinion ?
Answer : Yes, I do agree. Because in the sea the home of the people is the ship itself due to which they are tied together by a sort of family love and affection.
Question : Could you now answer some of our questions ?
Answer : Yes, certainly.
Question : Have you ever met any Russian People, especially the seamen beforehand ?
Answer : Yes, I have met and worked with the Russian people when a team of ten Soviet specialists led by Dr. A.V. Fedinsky visited our Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) situated in southern India in late 1970. However, it is only due to this Expedition that I could meet the Russian seamen for the first time when I had my very first sea voyage by the ship ‘Professor Viese’ and sailed from the port of Fremantle, Australia to Antarctica.
Answer : No, not at all. I never felt lonely but always felt at home because all the people were very friendly to me. They never treated me as a stranger. In fact, they always regarded me as one of them and addressed me as ‘Pasha’. The Chief Mate Vitaly Evanovich Pashenichney who always gave me a deep friendly love and brotherly affection taught me the fundamentals of the Russian language and also introduced me to the helmsmanship. Although, I was far away from my parents, Sardar Mohinder Singh Sehra (father) and Shrimati Satwinder Kaur (mother) to whom I owe my whole life and whom I regard as next to God only, I never felt myself devoid of their parental love because of the very nice and very kind nature of all the Soviet people on board the Soviet ships and, especially, that of Alexandra Mikhailovna who always gave me motherly love and affection and cared too much for me and for my food. I am deeply indebted and extremely thankful to Captain Ury Konstantinovich Karlov and all the staff members who created all this friendly and home-like environment in which I never felt lonely.
Question : Not knowing the Russian language, did you feel yourself lonely?
Question : Being an inhabitant of hot and sunny India, you have spent all this time amongst our Arctic and Antarctic seamen and the icebergs of Antarctica. Did you not feel too cold in such icy surroundings?
Answer : Well, I think that calling India as only hot and sunny would not be very true because it is a country of boundless skies and endless diversity, lofty mountains and peaceful valleys, big rivers and tilled fields stretching far beyond the horizon. India is very colourful and has a highly diversified climate where a season changes over almost every three months. For example, the hot and sunny summer with monsoon rains is followed by a beautiful autumn, a chilly winter and a lovely spring.
Well, I doubt very much if your Arctic and Antarctic seamen are really cold. In fact, they should be warm because they are very warm-hearted due to which I never felt any cold while living among them. I knew it beforehand that the icebergs of Antarctica would be very cold but the thanks are due to my parents, Sardar Mohinder Singh Sehra (father) and Shrimati Satwinder Kaur (mother), who induced into me a deep love for adventures and made me fearless owing to which I will always enjoy taking part in adventurous expeditions, howsoever difficult they may be. The cold of the Antarctic icebergs did not bother me at all because I was already used to living in cold weather at my native place ‘Punjab’ in India . I remember that in my childhood, by seeing the frost and ice-cold freezing water of my village-ponds, I often used to dream of running and playing on the frozen seas among the icebergs of Antarctica. I am now very happy since my age-old dream is being fulfilled here.
Question: What, especially, distinctive can you remember about the days you have spent on board the ship ‘Navarin’?

Answer: I would always remember myself as ‘Pasha’ - a name which the ship's staff gave me out of the deep friendly love and home-like affection. I would always remember the Chief Mate Vitaly Evanovich Pashenichney as my friendly teacher. I would always remember that the Russian ladies are very kind hearted and are extremely polite, and that the Soviets are very sociable people.
Question: Do you wish to visit the Soviet Union in future?
Answer: Yes, I do hope that at the end of the Expedition, I would be sailing from Antarctica to Leningrad where I may stay for some time. Also I have a plan to work at the Central Aerological Observatory (CAO), Moscow for some time before my return to India.
Question: Our Radio listeners and Television viewers are mostly seamen, what would you like to wish them before saying ‘goodbye’.
Answer: Well, I think that the plight of the wives of the seamen is really very miserable. Their abode is the land whereas the abode of their husbands is the endless sea. The seamen have to be away from their wives, their children, their parents and all other relatives for long periods. I wish them a bon voyage, a happy and an early return to their homes and a very cheerful meeting with their families. I wish them a very happy, healthy, prosperous, progressive and very brilliant marine career. I wish them the most favourable climatic conditions and a very smooth sailing.
"We thank you very much for the interview. On behalf of all our Radio listeners and Television viewers and ship's crew, we wish you good health, happiness and complete success in all your expeditations and scientific work. We and all the people are greeting and congratulating you as the first Indian ever to winter over the South Pole and circumnavigate and explore the Antarctic continent.”
"Thank you very much."
“Dasvedania” !

No comments: