Press Information Bureau
Government of India
Ministry of Earth Science
22-July-2015 16:01 IST
Antarctica Expeditions

           Indian Antarctic expedition commenced in 1981 that reached Antarctic on 08 January 1982. After operating from Ship and temporary shelters for two years, the first permanent research station “Dakshin Gangotri” was established in 1983 at 70.08˚S, 12.00˚ E over the Ice shelf in Central Dronning Maud Land region. The station was abandoned in 1990 as it got buried under snow.


Since 1988, research base Maitri (coordinates 70.77˚ S, 11.73˚ E) is operational in the central part of Schirmacher Oasis, in Central Dronning Maudland region of East Antarctica. The newly constructed Bharati station operational since March 2012, is located at 69.40˚S, 76.19˚E in Larsemann Hills, Antarctica.


India’s expedition is launched annually (once in a year) wherein about 100 to 120 members including Scientists, Engineers, Doctors and Tradesmen are sent in batches between November and January of the succeeding calendar year. So far there have been thirty five scientific expeditions including a parallel Weddle Sea Expedition in 1989 the year which had two expeditions. More than sixty institutes, R&D organizations, leading universities, survey organizations and IITs are taking part in the National endeavor and about 2500 scientists have carried out their scientific studies. A huge number of publications including international publications have been brought out by our scientists.   


 Currently 41 year-round permanent stations are operated by 30 nations.


The Maitri station is functional round the year. Currently, 24 personnel are deployed at the station. The Maitri Station occupies a strategic location in the Central Dronning Maud Land region of East Antarctica offering diverse opportunity of scientific research in disciplines
such as Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology; Earth Sciences including
Glaciology, Geomagnetism; Human Physiology and Medicine; Micro-biology; Environmental Sciences, etc.


   The total amount of expenditure incurred both in establishing Maitri, Dakshin Gangotri and Bharati as well as sending periodic expeditions to Antarctica since its inception, i.e from 1981-82 to 2014-15 is Rs. 1473.39 crores.


         Some of the significant contributions by Indian scientists to Antarctic research are:


(i)             Measurements of atmospheric ozone concentrations made from the Indian Antarctic research station “Maitri” reveal that the recovery of ozone depletion does not take place as fast in Antarctica as in the Arctic. 

(ii)                       India is among the first countries to take up magnetometer triangulation experiments in Antarctica to determine the presence and movement of small scale, auroral current systems. 

(iii)                     Magnetic field has been reported to decrease rapidly during last century in and around Maitri. Continuous magnetic measurements at Maitri however, indicate that the rate of decline has reduced considerably during last few years.

(iv)                      India also tapped the opportunity of observing Shadow Bands during the unique total Solar Eclipse on 23rd November 2003 studied by Indian scientists from the icy continent. The observations have been analysed for the study of shadow bands and their relation with Total Solar Eclipse, Antarctic lower Atmosphere Boundary Layer, Solar Corona and the other features of solar activity during declining phase of the sunspot cycle.

(v)                        Biological Research by India in Antarctica has been focused primarily towards enumeration of the microbial biodiversity of Antarctica and also to understand the molecular basis of cold adaptation. Research on the molecular basis of cold adaptation demonstrates that cold loving bacteria adapt to low temperatures by their ability to modulate membrane fluidity by regulating the synthesis of fatty acids and carotenoids. The study of the biodiversity of cyanobacteria and algae in fresh water and terrestrial ecosystems and chemical environment of the Schirmacher Oasis has revealed that various ecosystems differ significantly.

(vi)                      30 out of 240 new bacterial species discovered so far in Antarctica have been made by Indian scientists. Two genes namely t-RNA modification GTPase and aspratate aminotransferase have been identified as genes required for survival of bacteria at low temperature; a number of lipases and proteases active at low temperatures and useful for the biotechnology industry have also been identified.So far about 20,000 sq km area of the Wohlthat mountain ranges (which is in the backyard of Maitri) has been geologically mapped.

(vii)                    Geophysical studies have yielded gross features of the sub-glacial topography and thickness of the ice in the region south of the Schirmacher Oasis. 

(viii)                  Maitri is one of the Global Positioning System (GPS) stations contributing to the International database.

(ix)                      Analysis of snow/ ice cores data has provided valuable information on the spatial and temporal variability of snow accumulation in the Centra Droning Maud land (CDML) region. Near the erstwhile Indian Research Station ‘Dakshin Gangotri’, a net accumulation of 62.7cm was recorded during 1999-2001. Moving south towards the continental ice sheet, an average accumulation of 10cm/yr has been computed for the last 500 years from the ice core studies (core IND22/B4). Accumulation rates recently deduced from an ice core recovered from a continental ice sheet near the Humboldt Mountains indicate an average rate of ~70cm/yr for the past two decades.

(x)                        An ice core of 101.4 m ice core from the CDML was recovered during the summer of 2014- the longest by Indian scientists.

(xi)                      The major ion analysis of an ice core provides excellent marker horizons of many volcanic eruption events such as Krakatao (1883), Tambora (1815) and Huaynaputina (1600). Studies have also revealed that the tephra accreted during the Agung (1963) and Krakatao (1883) eruptions harboured microbial cells, suggesting that volcanic ash particles could provide a significant micro-niche for microbes and nanobes in the accreted ice.

(xii)                    A high-resolution ice core record from coastal Antarctica reveals a doubling of dust and trace element fluxes over East Antarctica since 1980s, coinciding with the enhanced intensity of southern westerlies and polar easterlies.

(xiii)                  Molecular-level characterization of dissolved organic matter in Antarctic snow shows that many of the identified supraglacial organic matter formulae are consistent with material from microbial sources, and terrestrial inputs of vascular plant-derived materials are likely more important sources of organic carbon to Antarctica than previously thought.

(xiv)                  A 54.5 MHz Moveable Atmospheric Radar (MARA) was installed at Maitri during the summer of 2014 as a collaborative venture between ESSO -NCAOR and Swedish Institute of Space Physics to study (a) the vertical transport and mixing processes in the polar troposphere and lower stratosphere under different meteorological conditions, and (b)  ice-cloud layers in the polar summer mesosphere to improve understanding of middle atmosphere dynamics and composition.

(xv)                    The palaeoclimatic data so far generated from Zub & Long lakes in Antarctica going back to 8,000 years before present indicate alternating arid - warm and humid climatic conditions.  Studies of the samples collected from marginal Antarctic lakes in the Vestfold Hills show the presence of types of foraminifera, reflective of marine influence in the past.

(xvi)                  Environmental magnetism studies carried out from one of the lakes of Schirmacher Oasis indicate that the glacial periods were characterized by high magnetic mineral concentrations. The Holocene period is characterized by alternating phase of relatively warm and cold events. This study also gives evidence of Schirmacher Oasis escaping full glaciations during the past 40,000 years.


These details were given by Minister of State for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences Shri Y.S.Chowdary in Lok Sabha today in a written reply to a question.