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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Indian Army skiing team back from South Pole


Press Release
Defense Minister Antony in a ceremony Flagged In the First Indian Army Skiing Expedition to South Pole at New Delhi, today.  Receiving the Expedition Flag from the team leader Col Anand Swaroop, Shri Antony said this ‘Coast to Pole’ expedition, undertaken by the brave soldiers of the Army, has further strengthened the credentials of Indian Army in the field of adventure activities.  Congratulating all the members of the expedition and the Army Adventure Wing for the successful expedition, he said “you have done our Armed Forces and the nation proud”. 
Lt Gen Ramesh Halgali, Director General of Military Training in his opening remarks presented a brief outline of this historic expedition.  He said the team comprising of three offrs and nine other ranks was formally flagged off by Gen VK Singh, Chief of Army Staff on 01 Nov 2010 from New Delhi.  The team which established its base camp at the Indian Glacier in the Coast of Antarctica on 24 Nov 2010 commenced their journey on skis at 1300hrs on 26 Nov 2010 from Hercules inlet (79° 56’s) in the initial week the team skied for 4-6 hours everyday averaging 25 kms per day.  They reached the South Pole on 15 Jan 2010 to coincide with the Army Day.   
The team leader Col Anand Swaroop gave a live presentation on the expedition.  Explaining the inherent dangers and challenges of the expedition, he said this expedition is one of the toughest journey undertaken by man on the earth. In the beginning all the members of the expedition were introduced to the Defence Minister Shri AK Antony by the Chief of Army Staff. 
Indian Army has been a pioneer in undertaking adventure activities. These activities inculcate the spirit of undertaking challenges, overcoming difficulties and developing the necessary qualities of teamwork and espirit-de-corp. In line with the successful mountaineering expeditions in the recent past, where the Indian Army successfully hoisted the national and Army flags atop six of the fourteen “Eight Thousander Peaks”, the Army started looking for new challenges.
A Skiing expedition to South Pole is one of the toughest journeys undertaken by man. The expedition involves traversing the continent from coast to pole, covering a distance of 1170 Kms, facing blizzards, Skiing in temperatures between -300 C to -400 C and hauling sledges with loads between 90-100 Kgs. The Indian Army took up this challenge and prepared for this adventure from Mar 2010 onwards. Volunteers were called from the Army and selection trials carried out at High Altitude Warfare School, Sonamarg. 03 Offrs and 09 Jawans were selected after a month long selection trials, which included endurance marches, physical tests, survival skills, navigation in snowbound areas and cross country skiing. 
To prepare realistically for the polar conditions, the team undertook an expedition in Greenland, in September 2010. The team covered a distance of 350 Kms over a period of 23 days. During this expedition, the team learnt skiing with sledges, camping in the Glacier, navigation in featureless terrain and maintenance of Clothing and Equipment.  With the experience of Greenland, the team was confident of its success in the main expedition. Minor adjustments in equipments were carried out to make them withstand the conditions likely to be encountered during the main expedition. 
The expedition - A first by an Indian team successfully unfurled the National and Army flag at the South Pole on Army Day this year. Only two Indians have done the same expedition. Col JK Bajaj, as a part of an international team in 1989 and Mrs Reena Kaushal in 2010 as part of Commonwealth Women’s Expedition.  During the expedition, the team braved blizzards of varying intensity, strong winds upto 100 Km/h, cold temp upto-40 Deg Centigrade, long and deep Crevasses and white out conditions.  During the entire expedition, the Sun did not set and they could see the Sun going around them during the day.
The team was airlifted from South Pole on 16 Jan 2010 to Union Glacier Base Camp. After a delay of 09 days, due to bad weather conditions, the team started its return journey on 24 January 2011 and reached New Delhi on 29 January 2011.  The team coincidentally celebrated ‘Republic Day’ at Santiago with the Indian Ambassador at Chile.

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