(The Gist of Science Reporter) Paradise lost
Paradise lost :
How Climate change and Pollution Could Wreak Havoc in Antarctica ?
Located Farthest from the human civilization and endowed with extreme
weather, Antarctica remains the last paradise for inquisitive explorers and
scientists. In December 2016, I was among the fortunate few who were selected
for a long and eventful voyage to Antarctica that would last for the next four
One of my active research interests is how species disperse in response to
climate change. The idea is that because of climate change, both Continental
Antarctica as well as the surrounding Southern chan are getting warm and *
therefore species that are restricted to warm subtropical and temperate waters
might get dispersed to expand their range to Antarctica. There are also chances
that some non-native seaweeds might have got introduced to the Antarctic coasts.
I visited both of India’s Antarctic stations -Bharati Station at Larsemann
Hills and Maitri Station at Schirmarcher Oasis. Both of these stations are
located in East Antarctica and are approximately 3000 m apart.
While most: of these islands of Larsemann H1113 remained unpolluted presence
of human arrival ts obviously visible everywhere In the islands and in the
peninsulas on close inspection most of the peaks have place markings underneath
these stones. At some locations, concrete plaques with markings of coordinates
and the organisations can also be spotted. Places around Broknes Peninsula and
Manning, Island remain the worst polluted places in Larseman Hills.
On a walking trail from Progress-1 station all the way to Progress-2 and
Zhongshang one can see the perils of human activities; at many locations one can
spot discarded oil barrels, thick T metallic ropes metal scraps, and even
mattresses and cans of beers In the imanmng island, I spotted beer cans at
several places I also spotted a container with scrap metals inside, littered
near Lake Folding, Manning Island. Terrible state of affairs that require
At one summit overlooking Progress-2 station, I saw a giant crucifix made out
of rubbish; a product of human artistry, nevertheless despicable in this
pristine continent. The cruciflx, just like those all-faith prayer rooms in our
stations, disenchanted me. Pax Antarctica remains the only continent that has
escaped religious indoctrination, and thanks to which there were no conflicts
yet. This encroachment of religion would make Antarctica just like anywhere else
on the earth. I wish the ATS (Antarctic Treaty System) bans all from of religion
from this continent.
Schirmarcher Oasis is one of ‘The most heavily polluted regions 0"
Antarctica. Scrap metals can be found everywhere; I found fuel barrels an even
containers on tOp of hillocks Burst balloons (that were being launched
frequently to study the atmosphere) can be found almost everywhere one goes.
At several Locations in the Antarctic glaciers I could find pink ice. Algae.
The pink or watermelon algae (Chlamydomonas nivalis) is quite interesting; its
massive blooms sometimes cover large areas of the glaciers. The algae is known
to cause glacial melting directly and indirectly ; directly , for its melts the
ice in order for it to complete its life cycle , and indirectly , for it masks
the white colour of snow (asit colours the glacier pink), and thereby reduces
the albedo effect. Albedo effect is the reflecting power of white surfaces,
especially the ice sheet; it refiects most of the energy and UV from the
sunlight .haclito the atmosphere. However, when the white colour is masked by
pink, the energy from sunlight gets trapped, accelerating the melting of the
Perhaps the most unusual finding that I made in Larseman Hills is the
presence of large invasive seaweed Laminaria throughout the coastlines of
several islands, especially Twin Island. This seaweed, commonly known as Kelp,
has never been reported in continental Antarctica. The most plausible cause for
its introduction is via research vessels. Twin Island sits on the mouth of a
narrow bay that cuts into Brokness Peninsula, where three research stations are
situated -China’s Zhongshan, Russia’s Progress-2 and Romania’s Law-Racovita.
Of course, Antarctica is changing, and our last paradise is on the way to
being irrevocably lost. The Earth had a little ice age’ in the 17th century;
since then our planet is getting warmed up at an alarming rate of 0.02°C per
year, which had never been the case in known history. It is now estimated that
up to 90% of that increased atmospheric temperature gets trapped in the world’s
oceans. Oceans get heated up particularly in the tropics, and the salty warm
water travels pole-wards where the higher density (due to higher salinity)
forces it to sink straight down the ocean along with the temperature -a process
called ‘salt water subduction’. Naturally, global warming significantly
increases this pole-ward flow of warm polar waters, causing tremendous increases
in the world’s ocean currents. Another major effect is that warm ' waters
reaching the poles directly melt A floating ice there sea ice as well as
In addition, the scientific consensus is that the oil trapped inside Ross and
Ronnie Ice Shelves (only areas where oil is detected, both are far away from
Indian stations as well) are too insignificant and that a commercial scale
exploitation is unworkable.
The short-term effect of changing climate is predicted to be an Antarctica
that is getting greener. As the continent can sustain vegetation only at the ice
free oases, resulting plant resources there will be negligible, quite unlike
that of tundra like Siberia (Siberia is expected to become an agricultural
heartland in the near future).
Effect of a collapsed Antarctica could be catastrophic. Let us not forget the
spirit of the Germans who plucked everything including their flag post and left
their Georg Forster station -next to India’s Maitri Station from Schirmarcher
Oasis in 1996. Of course, science should not function as a political placeholder
for Antarctica. Antarctica is the land of peace and science, and we hope it
remains that way, for our environment matters more than any other thing,
Courtesy: Science Reporter