A Visit to South Pole & Explore the Antarctic Continent: Daring Adventures of the First Indian Ever to Winter over the South Pole and Circumnavigate and Explore the Antarctic Continent

This book entitled “A Visit to South Pole & Explore the Antarctic Continent: Daring Adventures of the First Indian Ever to Winter over the South Pole and Circumnavigate and Explore the Antarctic Continent” is the first to describe the my participation in the 17th Soviet Antarctic Expedition during the period from 1971 to 1973 under a joint Indo-Soviet agreement between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Hydrometerorological Service (HMS) of the erstwhile USSR. This participation led me to the unique distinction of being the first Indian ever to winter over the South Pole and circumnavigate and explore the Antarctic continent for which I was awarded the prestigious Soviet Antarctic Medal, Ribbon and Polar Watch.
I was also awarded Ph. D. Degree in Science by the Gujarat University, Ahmedabad, India, for my Antarctic explorations described in my Ph. D. Thesis entitled “Atmospheric Structure: Exploration Over Antarctica and Interhemispheric Comparison”, carried out at the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad, India under the kind guidance of Prof. P.R.Pisharoty for which I am greatly undebted to him.
My active participation in the 17th Soviet Antarctic Expedition from 1971-1973 also sparked lot of interest in India for further exploration of the Antarctic continent including opening of some Indian Research Bases in Antarctica such as “Dakshin Gangotri” and “Maitri” based upon such proposals made by me earlier which was really like a dream come true for me. This book thus gives a brief account of my Antarctic odyssey and the Antarctic dreams cherished by me which finally turned out to be true, and this in itself is a valuable reward for me.
However, the Government of India has yet to fulfill its promises made in the Parliament vide its unstarred Question No. 8177 dated 25th April 1973, as I have already completed all my Antarctic research work and Antarctic explorations which led me to the award of the Ph. D. (Science) Degree and so many other international recognitions such as the Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society (F.R. Met. S.) of UK; the Member of the American Meteorological Society (MAMS) of USA; the Member of the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (MCMOS); Consultant at GISS/NASA, USA and the WMO/UN Expert of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), United Nations Organization (UNO), Geneva, Switzerland, etc. I have also made a very large number of scientific, technical and popular scientific contributions on Antarctic explorations which are published in several reputed international scientific journals with lot of media coverage all over the world.
The Antarctic continent is the last great wilderness, a hostile continent of snow and ice and treacherous weather. Yet, it is also a place of great beauty, a land of breathtaking panoramas, wide sweeping glaciers, turbulent ice-falls and vast, majestic snow-covered landscapes. In summer, these are seen under a permanent sun and in winter continuous darkness obscures every thing. Encircling this remote continent is the southern ocean, stormy, violent and isolating and a major barrier even now to those who want to visit this hostile land.
This book spans years of my Antarctic exploration, and it is the work of the lone Indian participant in the 17th Soviet Antarctic Expedition who has lived and worked at the South Polar Ice Cap in Antarctica for a very long period from 1972 to 1973 and thus knows it in all its moods and landscapes. During the early Antarctic explorations, very little was known about this continent as only some of its fringes had been seen. Many Antarctic Expeditions then went South in sailing ships under various national flags and dogs were the main means of overland transport. Nowadays, huskies have been replaced by tracked vehicles and skidoos, ships are purpose-built, reliable and powerful and Expeditions can make use of a variety of scientific aids.
Yet, although techniques and equipment have changed, the Antarctic itself has not. As this book so vividly portrays, those who go south still have to live in extreme conditions where small mistakes can have tragic consequences. This book gives a dramatic picture of day-to-day life in the most hostile place in the world including some details and insights that can only come from my first-hand experience.
Actually, Antarctica is so far away from our daily lives, so unlikely ever to impinge on our existence, that most of us are unconcerned that we know very little about this ice-covered continent which is bigger than China and our country India taken together and yet where, in any given winter, only about 2000 people live and work of whom there is hardly any woman. The history of man’s activities on the Antarctic continent is less than a hundred years old and the Indian involvement in the Antarctic explorations is relatively quite recent with my participation in the 17th Soviet Antarctic Expedition from 1971 to 1973 as the first Indian to do so, as described by Sir J.M. Caffin in the “Antarctic,” used as forward to this book being so relevant. What I have accomplished in the deep South in Antarctica during this period is condensed here to produce an interesting glimpse of what life is like in Antarctica for the people who work there, and it also gives some other general information on Antarctic explorations and my Proposals for opening some Indian Research Bases in Antarctic. The attitude to life of all the Polar Explorers is clearly one of self-reliance and optimism, despite often difficult circumstances and unforeseen setbacks.
Despite tremendous scientific and technical advancement made in the modern world, Antarctica as yet unspoiled by man and holding many secrets from him still remains the least known continent. I with my modest contributions in the Antarctic explorations have nothing but the greatest admiration for the kind of adventuring spirit that prompts men to explore this vast and unforgiving Antarctic continent which was personally induced into me by my parents Sardar Mohinder Singh Sehra (father) and Shrimati Satwinder Kaur (mother) and my late grandfather Sardar Bir Singh Sehra for which I is greatly indebted to them. This book is thus specially dedicated to them as well as to my late younger brother Dr. Saranjit Singh Rana Medical Docor for great service to humanity.
In fact those who know the Antarctic continent by actually exploring it are enriched and humbled by their thrilling experiences there. And how important it is for our general sanity to be made to feel small by the grandeur and elemental power of Mother Nature which I have personally experienced while wintering over the South Pole in Antarctica during the 17th Soviet Antarctic Expedition from 1971 to 1973. If we ourselves cannot reach Antarctica, at least we can be enthralled by its spell through the observations and experiences of others. This book is thus written in a popular style so that a common person could visit and winter over the South Pole and could also circumnavigate and explore the Antarctic continent alongwith me without actually undergoing its extreme hardships, and finally may also know how our country could launch Indian Antarctic Expeditions and open some Indian Research Bases in Antarctica.
It is a matter of great personal satisfaction and reward that the my most cherished dream of launching Indian Antarctic Expeditions and opening some Indian Research Bases in Antarctica is already fulfilled by the Government of India based upon his Antarctic explorations and such proposals sent from Antarctica including a telegraphic message to the then Prime Minister of India and an open letter to the nation, etc., with a constant follow-up action by my father Sardar Mohinder Singh Sehra on this matter. However, the Government’s promise of giving me some suitable national recognition for my Antarctic explorations is still due despite the fact that many international recognitions have already been given to me. I have actually opened a Gateway of India to Antarctica with my modest Antarctic explorations and proposals as is briefly presented in this book. Any suggetstions for the improvement of this book will be most welcome.
(Dr. Parmjit Singh Sehra)

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