There is something about travelling to the poles that keep even the most passionate traveller at bay. Nothing prepares an avid globetrotter for the harsh realities that the North or the South Pole has to offer like the unending days. But Professor Mohamed Hatha from the department of marine biology at Cochin University of Science and Technology has been there and done that. After having headed there twice in the past, the marine scientist is gearing up for a third trip to the poles now.
Prof. Hatha has as insatiable wanderlust and most of it has stemmed from his voyages which were part of his research. His affair with the snow-capped peaks of the Arctic started in 2009 when he headed to Himadri, India’s first Arctic research station located at Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway. Just a handful of Malayalis have travelled to this far end of the Earth, and the trips are almost always connected to researches. “I went there in 2009 as a team leader and I was a field participant in 2011,” he says.
The scientist can highlight the prominence of Arctic and the threats it faces. “We can see the most visible changes of climate change in Arctic than in Antarctic.
If we just look at a few NASA images we can see how much the Arctic cover has shrunk. Plenty of research is happening there for a few years. India, however, set up its research station there only in 2008. The changes at the macro level are visible to everyone and my proposal was connected to finding out changes at the micro level,” he added. The professor will be travelling to the Arctic in September this year for 45 days in connection with his research on carbon cycling.
Reminiscing about his earlier trips, he says, “I went there during summer and unlike what we have here, it has four months of summer. The temperature changes between -2 to +8 and there is bright light all around. The sun is always gleaming high. It has four months of night during winter, and hence there is maximum activity in the summer. Since there is no night, the experience was really interesting and very different. We do not keep a tab on time.”
Although there are 24 hour clocks, the days at the Pole are divided based on the timings when food is served. “We have breakfast from 7.30 am to 8.30 am, lunch from 12.30 to 1 pm and dinner is between 4.30 pm and 5.30 pm. For us, the night ends when the breakfast is served the next day. I was able to manage some sleep fortunately. It wasn’t the same for a few others in the station,” he says.
Located at this remote Ny-Alesund is the world’s northernmost post office. It is a tiny little wooden cabin which might remind one of sending letters to Santa Claus in North Pole. “During summer when the Arctic ice recedes, a route opens up giving way for tourist ships. The very first thing these tourists would do is queue up in front of the post office. They buy a card, which has a picture of the island and the latitude 79 degree 58 minutes will be stamped on it and then they post it. The island has a souvenir shop and a few remnants of a mining site. An Amundsen bust is built in memory of Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian voyager to first reach the poles,” he reminisces about the life in the icy island.
Prof. Hatha says he enjoyed his days at the poles thoroughly. “We were surrounded by bright days through and through and there was plenty of time at our disposal. Nothing could possibly come between us and our work in a place like that. And I am looking forward to my next trip,” says he....