CHAPTER-8: An Updated Antarctic Report

An Updated Antarctic Report
17th Soviet Antarctic Expedition Soviet Antarctic
Meteorological Rocket Launching Station
Molodezhnaya, Antarctica
Dated : 17th March, 1972
Professor P.R. Pisharoty
Physical Research Laboratory (PRI)
Gujarat, India.
Respected Sir,
Our diesel-electric ship ‘Navarin’ left the port of Punta Arenas, Chile on the 10th of February from where I had mailed you a detailed Report of the progress of my Journey to Antarctica.
8.1 Reaching Molodezhnaya after Completing Circumnavigation of Antarctica
We reached the Soviet Antarctic station Bellinshausen, where most of the scientific work is being done on oceanography, on 13th February and stayed there for about 5-6 days and left this station on the 19th of February, thereby reaching the station ‘Molodyozhnaya’ on the 1st of March. The ship had now to break the solid ice of 2-3 km distance for which it took about 5 days. Later our ship had to lead the passenger ship ‘Krupskaya’ out of solid ice of Antarctica which had come here to take the Members of the 16th Soviet Antarctic Expedition back to their homes, on 6th March.
On 9th March 1972 I changed over from the ship Navarin to my station of work ‘Molodyozhnaya’ where I was allotted a single seated good room in the Rocket House from where the Dining Hall is about a minute's walk but the place of my work ‘Rocket Station’ is about 15-20 minutes walk with steep-up situated on a mountainous peak. The food is sufficiently good but the dining room looks like some NCC camp with self-service system, there being 3 meals a day - breakfast from 7 a.m., to 8 a.m., lunch from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., and then the dinner from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. We are observing the Moscow timings here.
8.2 My First Impressions About the Soviet Antarctic Station Molodezhnaya
Let me now write here a few lines about my first impressions of this station. Well, from a distance Molodezhnaya looks like a small town beautifully electrified and centrally heated with a campus approximately of the size of the Gujarat University, Ahmedabad, India, may be a bit more than that. A lot of scientific work in geophysics is being done here apart from the various other fields. The Rocket Station is situated on a mountainous range like our Space Science and Technology Centre (SSTC)/ISRO trivandrum India, and every day we have to go there at least twice by walk. All the laboratories and living places are centrally heated and one feels himself in Antarctica only when one has to walk or work outside for about 2-3 hours. These days it is summer and the surface temperature varies from -30* to -40*C with the wind speeds of approximately 30 metres per second.
The winds are really very strong over here and walking in such strong winds with severe cold is really very difficult and hazardous but still one has to do so because this is an Expedition in Antarctica which is the abode of ice, snow, severe storms and extremely cold climate, but to me I am very much enjoying this weather and by now feel used to it. In the winter the temperature would fall to much below -50*C with the winds of about 30-40 metres per second.
These days we have both day and night. However, the day is getting shortened gradually and by the middle of May we would have a night of about 2-3 months without any day and similarly sometime later we would have a day of about 2-3 months without any night and inbetween there would be both day and night of about 6-7 months duration. It is really a very thrilling experience for me. Only very few people know some English whereas the station Director Dr. Averyanov knows only counting in English. I am, therefore, learning the Russian language with a fast speed.
8.3 About My Work at the Soviet Antarctic Station Molodezhnaya
On the 15th of March, Wednesday, I witnessed the first meteorological rocket firing from this station. It is the same meteorological rocket which is being fired from Thumba under the joint Indo-Soviet M-100 Programme. From here also, this rocket with M-100 system is fired on all Wednesdays at 6 p.m. (Moscow time). My job is to gather, to reduce and later to analyse this meteorological data received by the M-100 rocket system. I would try to obtain the maximum meterological data with this rocket system as a part of my rocketsonde data analysis job. I hope that this data would later be transmitted to you by Dr. Alexandrov from Moscow as we send the preliminary analysed data to Moscow.
Also, Sir, I wish to perform some other subsidiary experiment during my stay in Antarctica but I don't have my own apparatus of any type. I would be happy if you send me the guidelines of some additional experiment which I may build up here and do some independent experiment in collaboration with the Soviets. I would expect at least one telegram every month giving me the guidelines in my research work over here because in Molodezhanaya there is none who could guide me. At the rocket station almost all are engineers and there is no scientist of upper atmospheric physics which is my field.
If any staff member of PRL or ISRO wishes to perform some short experiment in Antarctica at Molodezhnaya station, I would be glad if I could be of some help to him. He can send his equipment along with all the necessary details of the experiment and the important literature by the first Soviet ship expecting to sail for Antarctica in early November which would later reach Molodezhnaya station in Antarctica in the middle of December. In fact, I may stay here for the next full summer upto about May and thus apart from my own work, I may also do such an experiment side by side so as to make the best use of this unique opportunity for the PRL.
8.4 Need For Cameras In Antarctica
Sir, the photo-camera that I may be soon provided at the station Molodezhnaya in Antarctica may not be so good being second-hand. Anyway, for the present that would be alright. If this photo-camera is good, I would keep it with me, otherwise I would return the same to the station at the end of the 17th Soviet Antarctic Expedition. However, I would appreciate if you send me all the necessary chemicals for photography alongwith some photo-papers for making positive prints and also a few colour films because none of these articles are available here. This station has no movie-camera and, therefore, I would not be able to make a short picture of Antarctica as I had planned earlier. If the PRL wishes to have such a short movie of Antarctica, I would very much appreciate if you kindly arrange to send me such a movie-camera in November by the first Soviet ship.
My correspondence address in Antarctica would be as follows by :
Mr. Parmjit Singh Sehra
Indian Participant, 17th Soviet Antarctic Expedition
Soviet Antarctic Rocket Station Molodezhnaya
c/o Arctic and Antarctic Institute, 34 Fontanka, Leningrad,
D-134, USSR.
I would be sending you a detailed Report of my work by the next ship ‘Ob’ expected in Molodezhnaya, Antarctica sometime in April which presently is sailing on Antarctica.

8.5 My Antarctic Radio and T.V. Interviews
On the 12th of February, I was interviewed by the Captain of our ship ‘Navarin’ and later the text of this interview was broadcast and telecast by Radio and T.V stations in Moscow on 21st February at 8 a.m.. The text of the broadcast and telecast was in Russian which lasted for about one hour each, and I think that the same might have appeared in the Indian newspapers as well.
Later on, before I shifted to the station Molodezhnaya, I had to give another T.V. Interview having a text of about one hour. I was put the various questions in Russian while Vitaly Evanovich, the Chief Navigator of the ship ‘Navarin’ helped me in translating the same into English and thus I could answer all the questions in English beginning with Hindi and ending with Russian. This T.V. Interview would again be telecast by the Moscow Television Service sometime in May or the beginning of June with the arrival of this ship in Leningrad. I think that it would be quite interesting to watch this telecast, and if I could learn about its exact date and time, I would inform you accordingly. This text would appear in the Soviet newspapers as well, the ship’s correspondent told me. I have been given a copy of the texts of my Ratio and T.V. Interviews.
8.6 Best Comliments to Everyone From Antarctica
Sir, I would again request you to keep me in touch with the domestic affairs and my parents and send me most urgent news from my home place, for example, my mother's welfare, my sister's marriage, my father's transfer, my brother's M.Sc. Examination result and his settlement, and the like.
I hope that our Remote Sensing Group may be expanding and doing good progressive work and the same about our NWP and M.R. Groups. I send my best regards to Professor K.R. Ramanathan and also all the staff members of PRL and ESCES/ISRO. My best wishes to Mr. K.P.G. Nair, Dr. Unni, Dr. Vittal Murti, Dr. M.S. Dhanju, Mr. Pandya, Mr. Nikhade, Mr. Harjinder Singh Raina and all other members of the PRP and KRR Projects.
The Station Director of Molodezhnaya, Antarctica had also asked me about the financial commitments with particular reference to the Risk Allowances, etc. I would appreciate if you kindly intimate me such a decision by PRL as soon as it is taken. I am enclosing herewith a few Antarctic photographs for all our colleagues to see the same, which I had taken with my friend’s camera.
With hartiest regards
Respectfully Yours
(Parmjit Singh Sehra)
(Project Scientist, 17th Soviet Antarctic Expedition, 1971-1973)
(First Indian ever to winter over the South Pole and circumnavigate and explore the Antarctic continent)
Place : Molodezhnaya, Antarctica

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