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Peaks & expeditions >> Peaks
since I was a kid I had been fascinated by mountains..I always remember fondly of the trips when my dad used to take me to Rishikesh, where I was awestruck by the beauty of the river ganga hustling down the himalayan foothills. I kept this passion for adventure in me, and when I joined college as a student of geology in Delhi University, gave me ample oppurtunities to go out and explore world outside the city life. but somehow for some reason that adventure didnt feel enough for me. In oct 2006 I left my classroom and enrolled for a basic mountaineering course in manali. The very first lecture that my teachers taught me have been in my mind uptill now..my instructor talked about the 'call of the mountains' and yes this phrase has inspired a lot of what has gone on in my life after the basic course. Being a geology student I got really fascinated by the glaciers in work, carving, eroding shaping huge mountains. I felt that I had a wonderful opportunity here to become a future researcher studying glaciers, mixing both my passion for adventure and intelligence and doing something for the society.
the mountaineering course totally changed me as a person, I developed a dream in my mind of going to Antarctica one day and since then my every work involved in achieving that dream...I worked hard to get a masters degree to understand processes that involving the physics behind glacier motion. because of which I joined a PhD program in America researching on antarctic icesheets...it took me another two years hardwork in gaining vital field knowledge about the processes involving icesheet motion and their significance in present environment that I finally got to set my foot in Antarctica.
In march 2011 I realized that I would finally be going to antarctica to work in a research project camping out on the ice for ~ 2 months doing field work. for the next 6 months crucial medical and physical tests were followed which determine I am fit enough and safe enough to go down to Antarctica. This was a very painful and frustrating experience for me. I tested positive for tb twice..(all indians do),...their computers found that I had rare heart disease ( which wasnt true)..I was finally able to clear all those test and I got a letter from government that I would be going to Antarctica!
on nov 11,2011 I left america for what was going to be the most unforgettable journey of my life...going to antarctica requires a lot of patience from the beginning...which I learned it the hard way..the first and foremost rule is one needs to have patience...one has to wait long hours at the airport due to flight delays, lost baggages and weather problems...my flight down south involved a stopover in new zealand on a commercial flight.
I arrived in christchurch a day or two later right after getting in new zealand I got my extreme cold weather (ecw) gear in from folks running the us antarctic program in new zealand. I was extremely tired and jetlagged and also a bit lost as I was in a new country...they told me that I would be going to mcmurdo station in Antarctica tomorrow. I was ecstatic but also a bit scared about how things would be in the white continent! I also wanted to settle down for a day or two in new zealand but it wasnt to be thats just the general rule in this journey that there's not much time to think and one has to leave when the time comes.
the following day I left for airport and we stopped at a USAP warehouse near the airport to change into ECW clothing...yes one needs to be in that gear to hop onto the C17 military aircraft just in case for emergency if the plane crashes in the middle of antarctica. the captain of the flight gave us a brief introduction of what to do in case of emergency and then we around 50 people boarded the plane to antarctica. C17 aircraft was a huge monster, a military aircraft first of all has no pretty air hostess sadly, instead they have fat brawny men providing one with packed lunches for the flight and ear plugs...why ear plugs basically the aircraft doesnt have any sound proof system...in order to save weight they have taken down all the inner ceilings so that one can see all electrical wiring inside the aircraft system it looks ugly but well were going to antarctica...there's hardly any luxury in that...well but to be honest we did strap ourselves to side of the airplane so unlike commercial flights there was plenty of legroom and space to move around and even visit the cockpit.
even though I was really tired, I could not sleep at all on the plane, I really wanted to view my first glimpses of the antarctica and I duly waited for that moment. it finally arrived after 4 hours into the journey that I started seeing broken icebergs from my window. first it was one...then two and after sometime there was a huge continent filled with ice...a land so vast that everywhere you look there was a different shade of white...apart from some beautiful mountain tips which were uncovered. I imagined how it would be like to set foot on this land being in the middle of the glacier that I saw from my window. There was I in the harshest continent in the world...