Dolcy D’CruzThe snow clad continent of Antarctica and its beauty is mysterious for people living in different parts of the world. In Goa, scientists like Dr M R Ramesh is bringing different aspects of the continent to the fore philately. His Antarctica themed collection with a ten frame exhibition include stamps, maxi cards, first day covers, commemorative covers, carried covers and souvenir covers on different aspects of Antarctica such as ships, marine life, research stations, research activities, paquebots (letters posted at sea), explorers to Antarctica, formation of Antarctica, Magnetic South Pole etcFormer President of the Goa Philately and Numismatics Society, Dr M R Ramesh Kumar was a member of the 6th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica in 1986-87. “Our 6th Expedition to Antarctica was led by Late Dr A H Parulekar. Dr V K Dhargalkar was the station commander of the first Indian Research station called Dakshin Gangotri. The Expedition was for a period of four months. We left on November 26, 1986 and reached there before Christmas and returned on March 22, 1987. I went on a ship called M V Thuleland of the Swedish Research Vessel,” says Dr M R Ramesh Kumar.Sharing his experience at Antarttica, he says, “I felt like I was on cloud 9. In those days, there was no proper communication and I had to the take photos with photographic films and load it on a photographic camera. While taking a photo of a penguin or a seal, we were not sure whether the film was loaded properly or if the camera shook as we had to bring the films back to Goa and process at Souza & Paul Film Studio at Panjim. We cannot go back to Antarctica again to take the photos. If it was during the present period, I would have taken a selfie with a penguin or seal positively.”He further adds, “I was caught in a snow blizzard and was rescued by my fellow colleague, Dr Joaquim Goes. We could carry several scientific activities and ours was one biggest contingent with 25 Army, 25 Navy, 25 Air force and 25 scientists, altogether 100 people. Several important results came out of this expedition. The first time two Indian Scientists dived in the lake Priyadarshini and collected sediment samples and did a bathymetric survey too.”The first Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica was led by Late Dr S Z Qasim, who was the former Director of NIO, Dona Paula, Goa and later Secretary, Department of Ocean Development (DOD), New Delhi. The Expedition left in December 1981 and touched Antarctica on January 9, 1982. The last expedition which went from Goa was 41st expedition and the 42nd Expedition will be going soon. “Prior to the Antarctica Expedition, there was a two week training at the High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) which was held at Sonamarg and Gulmarg in Kashmir and we also had a thorough medical check-up at AIIMS, New Delhi prior to our departure for the Expedition. One of the Indian Army Doctors performed an Appendix Operation in Antarctica,” says Dr Ramesh.The theme for Antarctica for philately was introduced to Dr Ramesh by veteran philatelist and founder member of Goa Philately and Numismatics Society, V R Navelcar after his return from the 6th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica. “I won a Silver Medal at the National Philatelic Exhibition called the Indian National Philatelic Exhibition called (INPEX - 2017) held at the World Trade Center, Nariman Point, Mumbai. India Posts have released a certain number of stamps, but more are needed on the various research activities, stations, logistics, and future plans too. The Australian Antarctic Territory have released the maximum number of stamps on the Antarctica theme. The British and the Argentina have also released several interesting stamps on different themes and topics and also research stations,” he says.Is there more to be done in India? “I think there is a good scope for India Posts to make innovative philatelic products which will capture the imagination of both national and international philatelists towards this interesting theme or topic. It can be good revenue earner for the department,” answers Dr Ramesh.
National Centre for Polar research Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India at Headland, Sada, will have an open day on occasion of Antarctica Day today, December 1 and on December 2. There will be a release of stamp, special cover, and special cancellation on Bharati, Indian Antarctic Research Station followed by an address by Sayeed Rashid, Post Master General, Goa in the presence of the chief guest, His Excellency, P S Sreedharan Pillai, Governor of Goa.