Indian Antarctic Program

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An aerial view of the Indian Station Maitri on 25 February 2005
Col. Jatinder Kumar Bajaj, a member of one of the Indian expeditions to Antarctica, standing at the South Pole (17 January 1989)

The Indian Antarctic Program is a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional program under the control of the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India. It was initiated in 1981 with the first Indian expedition to Antarctica.[1] The program gained global acceptance with India's signing of the Antarctic Treaty and subsequent construction of the Dakshin Gangotri Antarctic research base in 1983,[1] superseded by the Maitri base from 1989. The newest base commissioned in 2012 is Bharati, constructed out of 134 shipping containers. Under the program, atmospheric, biological, earth, chemical, and medical sciences are studied by India, which has carried out 30 scientific expeditions to the Antarctic as of 14 October 2010.


The origin of the Indian missions to the Antarctic are traced to the joint Indian Space Research OrganisationHydrometeorological Centre of Russia agreements, which led to Indians, such as Dr. Paramjit Singh Sehra, joining the 17th Soviet Antarctic expedition of 1971–1973.[2]

India officially acceded to the Antarctic Treaty System on 1 August 1983. On 12 September 1983, the country became the fifteenth Consultative Member of the Antarctic Treaty.[3]


The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research—a research and development body functioning under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India—controls the Indian Antarctic program.[4] The NCPOR and the Department of Ocean Development select the members for India's Antarctic expeditions.[2] After medical tests and subsequent acclimatization training at the Himalayas, these selected members are also trained in survival, environment ethics, firefighting and operating in a group.[2]

One expedition costs up to 200 million (US$2.9 million).[2] Logistical support to the various activities of the Indian Antarctic program is provided by the relevant branches of the Indian armed forces.[4] The launching point of Indian expeditions has varied from Goa in India to Cape Town in South Africa on 19th expedition during the time of NCAOR Founding Director Dr. P C Pandey in December 1999.[2] Over 70 institutes in India contributed to its Antarctic program as of 2007.[2]

Global cooperation[edit]

The Indian Antarctic program is bound by the rules of the Antarctic Treaty System, which India signed in 1983.[4] Pandey (2007) outlines the various international activities that India has undertaken as a part of its Antarctic program:

On 12 September 1983, India achieved the status of Consultative Party, on 1 October became a member of Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), and in 1986 became a member of the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). In 1997 India also ratified the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty thus reaffirming India's commitment to protecting the Antarctic environment. India hosted the eleventh COMNAP/SCALOP (Standing Committee on Antarctic Logistics and Operations) meeting in Goa in 1999, and the working group meeting on eco-system monitoring and management of CCAMLR in August 1998 at Cochin. India occupied the CCAMLR chair beginning in November 1998 for a period of 2 years.[2]

India also collaborates with the international community as a member of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, Regional Committee of Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission in Coastal Indian Ocean (IOCINDIO), International Seabed Authority (ISBA), and the State Parties of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).[4][5][6]


Krill distribution on a NASA SeaWIFS image – the main concentrations are in the Scotia Sea at the Antarctic Peninsula. India carries out krill exploration in the Southern Ocean region of the Antarctic.[4][7]

Antarctica holds scientific interest for global research projects due to a number of reasons: 'Origin of continents, climate change, meteorology and pollution' are among the reasons cited by S.D. Gad (2008).[4] Mrinalini G. Walawalkar (2005) holds that: 'ice–ocean interaction and the global processes; paleoenvironment and paleoclimatic studies; geological evolution of earth and Gondwanaland reconstruction; Antarctic ecosystems, biodiversity and environment physiology; solar terrestrial processes and their coupling; medical physiology, adaptation techniques and human psychology; environment impact assessment and monitoring; enabling low temperature technology development; and studies on earthquakes' are among the areas of study under the Indian Antarctic program.[6]

Close to 1,300 Indians had been to the continent as of 2001 as a part of the country's Antarctic program.[7] Indian expeditions to the Antarctic also study the fauna and the molecular biodiversity of the region.[8][9] A total of 120 new microbes had been discovered as a result of international scientific effort in the Antarctic by 2005.[6] 30 of these microbes had been discovered by Indian scientists.[6] India has also published over 300 research publications based on Antarctic studies as of 2007.[2]

The 'ice cores' retrieved by drilling holes in Antarctic's vast ice-sheets yield information 'on the palaeoclimate and eco-history of the earth as records of wind-blown dust, volcanic ash or radioactivity are preserved in the ice as it gets accumulated over time'.[4] The NCAOR developed a polar research & development laboratory with a 'low-temperature laboratory complex at −20 °C for preservation and analysis of ice core and snow samples' according to S.D. Gad (2008).[4] The 'ice core' samples are held, processed, and analyzed in containment units designed by such technology.[4] Storage cases made of poly propylene also ensure that the samples do not alter characteristics and are preserved for analysis in the form that they were recovered.[4]

Research stations[edit]

In 1981 the Indian flag unfurled for the first time in Antarctica, marking the start of Southern Ocean expeditions under the environmental protocol of the Antarctic Treaty (1959).

Dakshin Gangotri[edit]

The first permanent settlement was built in 1983 and named Dakshin Gangotri. In 1989 it was excavated and is being used again as supply base and transit camp.


The second permanent settlement, Maitri, was put up in 1989 on the Schirmacher Oasis and has been conducting experiments in geology, geography and medicine. India built this station close to a freshwater lake around Maitri known as Lake Priyadarshini. Maitri accomplished the mission of geomorphologic mapping of Schirmacher Oasis.


Located beside Larsmann Hill at 69°S, 76°E, Bharati is established in 2015. This newest research station for oceanographic research will collect evidence of continental breakup to reveal the 120-million-year-old ancient history of the Indian subcontinent. In news sources this station was variously spelled "Bharathi",[10] "Bharti"[11] and "Bharati".[12]

Indian Antarctic expeditions[edit]

Lieutenant Ram Charan, an Indian Navy meteorologist, was the first Indian to visit the Antarctica, in the South Pole, when he accompanied an Australian polar expedition in 1960. He died in a road accident in 1961.

Date Expedition Leader Deputy Leader
1981–1982 First Indian Expedition to Antarctica Dr. Sayed Zahoor Qasim C. P. Vohra, H. N. Siddiquie
1982–1983 Second Indian Expedition to Antarctica V. K. Raina Dr. C. R. Sreedharan
1983–1985 Third Indian Expedition to Antarctica Dr Harsh K. Gupta Lieutenant Colonel Satya Swarup Sharma
1984 Fourth Indian Expedition to Antarctica Dr. B.B. Bhattacharya Mr. D.K. Pande
Fifth Indian Expedition to Antarctica Mr M.K Kaul
Sixth Indian Expedition to Antarctica
Seventh Indian Expedition to Antarctica
1988–1990 Eighth Indian Expedition to Antarctica Dr Amitava Sen Gupta Col S Jagannathan
1989–1991 Ninth Indian Expedition to Antarctica Rasik Ravindra
1990–1992 Tenth Indian Expedition to Antarctica A. K. Hanjura
1991–1993 Eleventh Indian Expedition to Antarctica Dr. Mukherjee
Twelfth Indian Expedition to Antarctica
Thirteenth Indian Expedition to Antarctica
Fourteenth Indian Expedition to Antarctica
Fifteenth Indian Expedition to Antarctica
Sixteenth Indian Expedition to Antarctica
Seventeenth Indian Expedition to Antarctica
Eighteenth Indian Expedition to Antarctica
Nineteenth Indian Expedition to Antarctica
Twentieth Indian Expedition to Antarctica
2002–2003 Twenty first Indian Expedition to Antarctica Shri R. P. Lal
Twenty Second Indian Expedition to Antarctica
Twenty third Indian Expedition to Antarctica
Twenty fourth Indian Expedition to Antarctica
Twenty fifth Indian Expedition to Antarctica
Twenty sixth Indian Expedition to Antarctica
Twenty seventh Indian Expedition to Antarctica
2008–2009 Twenty eighth Indian Expedition to Antarctica Dr. P. Malhotra Ajay Dhar
2009–2010 Twenty ninth Indian Expedition to Antarctica P. Elango Rajesh Asthana
2010–2011 Thirtieth Indian Expedition to Antarctica K. Jeeva Rajesh Asthana
2011–2012 Thirty first Indian Expedition to Antarctica Dr. Rupesh M. Das (Bharati) & Shree Uttam Chand (Maitri) Rajesh Asthana
2013–2015 Thirty third Indian Expedition to Antarctica Mohd. Yunus Shah


  1. ^ a b Walawalkar (2015), Gad (2008)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Anas (2007)
  3. ^ Department of Ocean Development, Government of India. Annual Report 1983-1984, TECHNICAL PUBLICATION NO. 3., Printed at Dee Kay Printers Kirtinagar, New Delhi
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Gad (2008)
  5. ^ Pursuit and Promotion of Science – The Indian Experience (2001), 351
  6. ^ a b c d Walawalkar (2005)
  7. ^ a b Pursuit and Promotion of Science – The Indian Experience (2001), 352
  8. ^ Pursuit and Promotion of Science – The Indian Experience (2001), 173
  9. ^ Pursuit and Promotion of Science – The Indian Experience (2001), 213
  10. ^ The Hindu : Tamil Nadu / Cuddalore News : Third Antarctica research station by 2011
  11. ^ "Bharti to be 3rd Indian station in Antarctica", The Times of India, 6 August 2009
  12. ^ The Hindu News Update Service


  • Gad, S. D. (2008), "India in the Antarctic", Current Science, 95 (2): 151, Bangalore: Indian Academy of Sciences.
  • Pandey, P.C. (2007) in "India: Antarctic Program", Encyclopedia of the Antarctic edited by Beau Riffenburgh, pp. 529–530, Abingdon and New York: Taylor & Francis, ISBN 0-415-97024-5.
  • Pursuit and Promotion of Science – The Indian Experience (2001), New Delhi: Indian National Science Academy.
  • Walawalkar, M. G. (2005), "Antarctica and Arctic: India's contribution", Current Science, 685, Bangalore: Indian Academy of Science.
  • "Scientific Report of First Indian Expedition to Antarctica" (PDF). Department of Ocean Development, Government of India. 2016.

External links[edit]