India plans to rebuild its Ice Station Maitri on Antarctica with emphasis on use of wind energy

This article briefly describes India’s plans to rebuild its ice station Maitri which was originally built in 1989 after India’s first ice station Dakshin Gangotri got buried under ice. The article starts with a brief history of Indian expedition to the Antarctica. The use of wind energy in the reconstruction of Maitri is emphasized. In the end, India’s plan to construct its third ice station Bharati on the Antarctic has been touched.

Brief history of Indian expeditions to the Antarctica

The history of Indian expedition to the Antarctica started with Dr. Paramjit Singh Sehra who joined the 17th Soviet Antarctic expedition in 1971-73. India ventured into the Antarctic expedition at its own when a team of 21 members led by S.Z. Qasim started the first Indian expedition in 1982 for a short exploration of the Antarctica just for a period of 10 days. The first Indian research station named Dakshin Gangotri was set up on the ice shelf in 1983. However, this became inoperative 1989 as it got buried under excessive snow. So far India has sent 27 expeditions to the Antarctica. The first woman member of the Indian expedition to the Antarctica was Kanwal Vilku who spent 15 months in Antarctica as member of the 19th Indian expedition to the Antarctica.

Building of ice station Maitri in March 1989

The Indian ice station Maitri was established in March 1989. Prior to this venture, India's first ice station Dakshin Gangotri had been buried under the ice. Maitri has been built on adjustable telescopic legs. It has 25 single occupancy rooms. Besides, it has accommodation for research, supply, power and general purpose. The ice station is located on the East Antarctic mainland. It is position is to the south of Capetown and it is about 90 nautical miles from the Antarctic coastline. There is a Russian Ice station Novolazarevskaya just at a distance of 5 kms from the Indian ice station Maitri. The supplies to the ice station Maitri are provided each year by a chartered ship and chartered helicopters carried by it.

India's plan to rebuild its Ice Station Maitri on Antarctica

India achieved a milestone in its Antarctic expedition when it became one to the countries to establish its own permanent Ice Station Maitri on the Antarctica continent about two decades ago. Antarctica is also known as the land of blizzards because of the fast blowing winds on this continent. India now plans to totally rebuild the Ice Station Maitri and wants to make it eco-friendly by reducing the use of fossil fuels in its construction as well running its various operations. The plan is to harness the wind energy which has a lot of potential on the continent due to the strong winds blowing on the continent most of the time. The thinking of the planners, of course, is that the use of petroleum products cannot be totally done away with. But there will be a strong effort to reduce the use of petroleum by at least 35 per cent to make the Ice Station Maitri eco and environmental friendly. The planners want to achieve this objective by installing windmills near the Ice Station Maitri.

Emphasis on use of wind energy in the reconstruction of Ice Station Maitri.

• It is pertinent to not that the Ice Station Maitri uses about 5,00,000 litres of aviation turbine fuel annually to run several of its operations. It is estimated that about 2,40,000 litres of this aviation turbine fuel are used to run the modified diesel generators Aditya and Bhaskara of ice station Maitri. These generators are meant to power Maitri's heating apparatus and other machinery used on the ice station.

• Speaking about the use of fuel at the ice station Maitri, Dr. S Rajan, Director, National Centre for Antarctica and Ocean Research (NCAOR) said, "This is a huge quantity. Our aim is to cut down as much as possible. The heating apparatus and other basic necessities will be run on wind energy. We are finalising a plan of the new green structure.", There is a proposal to make use of the areas located in Shirmahcar hills of the continent where there is a lot potential to generate wind energy. The initial studies conducted by the National Centre for Antarctica and Ocean Research have suggested that the wind mills ought to be installed at a height of 30 metres. This height would be suitable for optimal wind conditions to operate the windmills effectively. Shirmachar hills is supposed to be the most suitable place to install the windmills.

• The main approach towards rebuilding of the Ice Station Maitri will be to used composites and energy saving materials for construction of the new building for Maitri. The emphasis will be to regulate the use of fuel for power generation to cut emissions.

India's plan to build a third ice station Bharati by 2012

India plans to build its third ice station Bharati by 2012 in addition to its rebuilding efforts of the ice station Maitri. An area besides Larsmann Hill at 69°S, 76°E of the Antarctica continent has already been selected and demarcated for the purpose. The Indian research team has completed the survey and the ice station Bharati is likely to be operational by 2012. Once completed, India will be one of the members of the elite group of nine nations which will be enjoying the envious position of having multiple stations within the Antarctic Circle. The Bharati Antarctic base of India will be used for oceanographic research. It will collect evidence of continental break-up to reveal the 120-million-year-old ancient history of the Indian subcontinent. Various sources spell the name of the station as "Bharathi", "Bharti" or "Bharati".

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