Bengaluru: About 150 explorers from 26 countries, including 17 young Indians, are sailing to Antarctica on Sunday on a 13-day expedition to study the impact of climate change due to global warming.
"The largest group of 150 men and women, including 17 from India, will cruise in a ship from Ushuaia, the world's southernmost town in Argentina, to the Antarctica Peninsula for exploring the icy continent around the South Pole," expedition coordinator Samantha Van Ruiten told IANS.
The eight women and nine men from India are students, techies, researchers, executives and members of non-government organisations (NGOs), with a common cause to save the planet from ill-effects of greenhouse emissions, urbanisation, over consumption and changing lifestyle.
"Antarctica provides an ideal setting for the expedition to know first-hand the fallout of climate change and feel how temperature rises on its icy landscape due to greenhouse gases and other emissions from chimneys, highways, fossil fuels and waste in developed and developing countries across other continents," Samantha said ahead of the mission under the Leadership on the Edge programme.
Though there was an overwhelming response to the 2041 Foundation's call to embark on the ecological mission, only 150 were selected keeping in view logistics and resources, health and environmental concerns over the flora and fauna of the 14 million km uninhabited and ice-covered landmass below South America.
The first expedition in 2003 had just 42 adventurers from 18 countries and the 2015 expedition 110 members from 22 countries worldwide.
"I am excited to visit Antarctica though far away, coldest, driest and windiest in the southern hemisphere, as it gives me an opportunity to explore the unknown continent and study the impact of global warming on its fragile ecosystem," 28-year-old D Chandrika, a member of the International Antarctica Expedition (IAE 2016), told IANS from Pune.
Headed by veteran polar explorer and renowned British environmentalist Robert Swan and hosted by the US-based Foundation, the expedition from 13 to 25 March will focus on promoting renewable energy sources, environmental sustainability and climate preservation.
"As promotion of green energy and clean technologies worldwide is a major objective of this expedition, our assessment of the impact will make nations combat climate change and reduce global warming to protect the environment by framing sound policies," Chandrika, an astrophysicist and India officer of University of Gottingen in Germany, asserted.
Swan, 60, an OBE (Order of British Empire) and first person to set foot on North Pole and South Pole in 1989, had set up the 2041 Foundation to preserve Antarctica by promoting recycling, renewable energy and sustainability to combat affects of climate change.
The Foundation was set up in 1991 when the protocol on environment protection issued a moratorium banning drilling and mining in Antarctica. The 50-year protocol is due for review in 2041, as per the Antarctica Treaty System international agreement signed in 1959 to govern human activity in the continent.
"The 2041 mission is to build on Swan's dedication by informing, engaging and inspiring generation of leaders to take responsibility, lead sustainable life, contribute to policy development and do what it takes to preserve the last great wilderness on earth," Samantha pointed out.
Rohan Sood, 26, a techie from Kangra in Himachal Pradesh, is raring to skate and trek on the icy terrain for a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the world's bottom where average temperatures hover around minus 10 to minus 5 degrees Celsius in six months of summer from October to March and sink lower to minus 20 to minus 35 degrees Celsius in six months of winter from April to September.
"There is an urgent need to create global awareness on saving our planet from the dangers of global warming and climate change by conserving resources, using renewable energy and going green with eco-friendly materials," Sood told IANS.
Though based in Dubai as an engineer with Japanese industrial electronics product firm Anritsu, Sood is a globetrotter, having visited 18 countries across five continents and worked on community projects in Sri Lanka and Slovenia.
"It's humbling to be on the expedition to protect the environment and preserve the fragile eco-system for the benefit of humankind. As saving the earth from global warming and climate change is a responsibility of everyone and every nation, we need to work together for sustaining life itself," Sood noted.
Hyderabad-based Aarti Rao, 25, a member of the Third Pole Foundation Swan mentored in 2013 at Leh as part of the Global Himalayan Expedition, is upbeat on flying across three continents to reach the planet's edge for a lifetime adventure.
"I was inspired to join the expedition by Swan and other explorers like Robert Scott to be the change we want to bring about in families, companies, communities and countries. It's time for action in policy development, sustainable business and designing future technologies," Rao, an engineering graduate, told IANS.
According to a British survey, Antarctica has 90 percent of the earth's ice and 70 percent of fresh water, thanks to an underwater torrent of one trillion tonnes that develops in the Weddell Sea every hour. The mass of salty brine formed by freezing of the ocean floor set off a global current system.
"Our expedition creates ambassadors for education, environment and sustainability across the globe. To protect Antarctica and the rest of our planet, we must inspire leaders to return home and create change at personal, community and corporate levels and beyond," Samantha added.