13 Apr 2024  |   04:37am IST

Goa - Antarctica - Goa: A Postal Connect

India Post, in collaboration with National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, Goa, recently opened a ‘Bharati’ Branch Post Office at Bharati Station, Antarctica. Goa has a special connection with Antarctica scientifically and philatelically
Goa - Antarctica - Goa:  A Postal Connect

Dr M R Ramesh Kumar

Antarctica is the highest, coldest, windiest and driest continent. Antarctica contains 68 percent of World’s fresh water and 90 percent of all the ice on planet Earth. Antarctica has no trees or bushes. Vegetation on the continent is composed of mosses, lichen, and algae. Penguins, whales and seals live in and around Antarctica, as do fish and krill. The male Emperor Penguin is the only warm-blooded animal to remain on the continent throughout the freezing winter. There are no indigenous populations of people on the frozen continent. 

Today, human habitation exists at a variety of science research stations placed by a number of countries. The freezing weather is an excellent location to study how the body and mind adapts to the cold. Scientists also drill for ice cores, which can provide a climate history of the region over thousands of years. The vast vegetation-free expanse makes an excellent place to search for meteorites; the dark rocks stand out easily on the white backdrop and don’t find themselves covered by growing plants. 

Other projects include the study of penguins, fish, global warming, glaciology, astronomy, and climatology. During the International Geophysical Year (IGY – (1957-1958), 12 nations established over 60 stations in Antarctica. The beginning of international cooperation in Antarctica and the start of the process by which Antarctica becomes ‘non-national’. 

India Post in collaboration with National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, Goa, recently opened ‘Bharati’ Branch Post Office at Bharati Station, Antarctica by KK Sharma, Chief Postmaster General, and Maharashtra Circle online. He virtually released a Picture Postcard on ‘Bharati Station’ at Antarctica. Bharati Branch Post office is third post office established and second branch post office to be functional in the Indian Research Station at Antarctica. Bharati Branch Post Office and Maitri Branch Post Office are linked to NIO Dona Paula, Sub Post Office under Goa Postal Division. 

To understand Antarctica through Indian Scientific Expeditions, various expeditions, different scientific stations (Dakshin Gangotri, Maitri, and Bharati), were set up. The first Expedition was led by Dr SZ Qasim, who was then the Director, National Institute of Oceanography, Dona Paula. He successfully led the First Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica in the year, 1981 and it touched Antarctica on January 9, 1982. A First Day cover was released by the Department of Posts, Government of India, to commemorate the occasion on January 9, 1983.  Two different cancellations can be seen, one with a ship issued by most of the post offices within India and a different one Rajkot, with a wavy cancelation mentioning the First Day of Issue both in Hindi and English.

Dr Baban Ingole is a member of the 4th, 6th and 12th Indian Scientific Expeditions to Antarctica. A retired chief scientist, from NIO, Dona Paula, Dr Baban is currently working as a consultant at NCPOR, Vasco da Gama and is also currently on a Deep Sea Mission. He says, “Mesmerising, Unforgettable and God’s Creations” about Antarctica.

Dr Ramaiah, retired Chief Scientist from NIO, was a member of the 9th ISEA. “Antarctica - A continent under ice in isotacy. In the event we melt up the ice mass by our unsustainable lifestyle, the continent of Antarctica will “float” up close to 900 meters. This can shake up a lot of crust and mantle dynamics,” says Dr Ramaiah. He further adds, “I am not a Frankenstein. I shall leave Antarctica alone for Posterity.”

B Sudarsan Patro, who was member of 35th Wintering ISEA and also a Deputy leader of the Bharati station during the 37th ISEA says, “Working with different organizations in Antarctica has been a fantastic learning journey, filled with uncertainty, and the need to adapt to ever changing situations. During my stay in the continent, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in this unique environment.” 

Roland De Melo, Secretary, Goa Philately and Numismatics Society informs, “Antarctic Philately is a different ball game. It involves autographs by voyage leaders, Maitri Station Leader, Bharati Station Leader, respective Wintering team leader, ship captain, helicopter captain, and communication in charge. All these autographs with their unique seals of their designations add value to the collectibles. But for ISEA research being priority, a philatelist might not get his choices right.” 

K Jeeva, Leader of the 30th ISEA, mentions, “Antarctica is coldest continent with warmest hearts of people from different regions.” 

Mohan Chandra Pathak, Technical Officer (Retd) who participated in the first Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica, way back in 1981-82, says, “Scientific expeditions who steered their vessels through stems and mists and generated India’s knowledge about the lands of ice in the South known as Antarctica.”

Expedition covers which are available from personal collections depicts different types of Dakshin Gangotri (First Indian Scientific Research Station) cancellations, Maitri (second Indian Scientific Research station) cancellations and Bharati (the third Indian Scientific Research station) cancellation and also two South Pole cancellations to mark the centenary of the Amundsen-Scott Polar Expeditions.

(Dr M R Ramesh Kumar, Chief Scientist (Retd), NIO, Dona Paula was a member of the 6th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica.)


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