An opportunity can present itself anywhere, anytime. We can truly make the best use of it if we are sensitive enough. Meet Aman Malik (right in photo), a second-year student of the University School of Chemical Technology (USCT), Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University.
“When I was in class XII, we had a chapter in English — Journey to the end of the Earth, which was written by an alumni member of the ‘Student on Ice Antarctic University Expedition.’ A link was mentioned at the end of the chapter. Out of curiosity, I clicked on that link and began exploring the details and that’s how I found out about this expedition,” says Aman Malik.
It took him two years of consistent hard work to raise funds, complete the formalities and get accepted for the expedition. The twoweek long intensive research programme focussed on educating students about glaciers, birds, wildlife, mammals, geology, ecology and find out more about the Antarctic explorers. Aman was the only Indian member in the 53-member student researcher team from 12 countries across the globe to take part in the research.
As part of the research team students had to take part in workshops and also take up field courses. “Our course was divided into classroom-learning and field trips. As part of classroom discussions we discussed on how to make a scientific career from the work we were doing,” says Malik.
“Since the entire area is covered with ice and water, we had to commute by ship and small canoes called zodiacs. The rest of the distance was covered on foot. After hiking on glaciers, we had to dig 60cm snow pits. In ice, the normal spade doesn’t work and so we had special tools and drills to help us. After the pit was made, we had to stand in the pit and measure the height and temperature of the snow. We used a special thermometer for it. We also measured the density of the snow and through a special device, which is like an icecream scoop, we took a scoop of the snow and measured the mass and volume. We took turns to calculate. Through the calculations and observations we made, we could gauge the history of the planet. We also went to Maitri, the second permanent Indian research station in the Antarctic,” says Malik.
For someone who is from a tropical country, adjusting to the snow can be a major challenge. Talking about some of the challenges he faced, Malik says, “The temperature there would be 2-3 degrees Celsius but the wind blows hard with great ferocity. Because of the wind chill the temperature would drop down to -12 to -15 degrees Celsius. In that snow, we had to walk over to our area of research. I didn’t have a good pair of boots. As a result, the snow would seep in and my socks and feet would be very cold. Once, another student told me that they had seen a whale. Out of excitement I just ran outside in the freezing temperature and my hands became numb and I had to quickly come in and warm them.”
Now that Malik is back, he plans to complete his engineering and pursue his postgraduation in earth sciences.