"It's cold. It's dark. There is no sunlight"
Dr Vishnu Nandan will be the only Indian on board the largest Arctic expedition ever.
A remote sensing scientist from Kerala who resides in Canada, the 32-year-old is set to begin a three to four-week journey to the RV Polarstern, a German research ship frozen in place atop moving sea ice near the North Pole.
However, danger is abundant. Not only is it extremely cold but there will be almost no sunlight. Snowstorms and polar bears are also common.
RV Polarstern is a floating lab and will be the home to hundreds of scientists from 19 countries for the rest of 2019 and 2020.
All will be part of the largest polar expedition. They will collect new data about the Arctic’s changing climate, whose effects are felt across the globe.
Dr Nandan is the only Indian and will remain on board until the end of February 2020.
During the expedition, known as MOSAiC, Dr Nandan and the other researchers will focus their efforts on Arctic sea ice, looking at how melting ice leads to more sunlight being absorbed which accelerates warming and melt even more ice.
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It is getting dark here at the MOSAiC ice floe: The team of #MOSAiCexpedition is left with a few hours of #twilight around noon and they can still see a small line of orange light when the weather is clear. Thus, they are becoming more and more accustomed to working in the dark. It was important to set up most parts of the ice camp and establish our pre-planned safety routines when they still had some day light left. They are using big spotlight beams of #Polarstern to support work on the ice and in particular to illuminate the areas around us to support polar bear guards. . . #Arctic #Icedrift #Icecamp #Darkness . ? @estherhorvath / @awiexpedition
According to the expedition’s website, Dr Vishnu Nandan “will have the opportunity to continually monitor changes in the ice throughout every season”.
He specialises in using radar to monitor changes in sea ice thickness. Using surface-based radar sensors around Polarstern, he will collect measurements.
On the use of radar, Dr Nandan explained:
“Unlike optical satellites, radar works in the absence of sunlight, in the unending night of the Arctic winter.
“A winter, as you’ll soon see, that’s capable of shaping much more than choices of equipment.”
Dr Nandan has been on 16 expeditions, both to the Arctic and the Antarctic. But he admitted that his time on the Polarstern will not be easy.
He told India Today: “It’s cold. It’s dark. There is no sunlight, so there is a big deficiency of Vitamin D and on top of it, your loved ones are in Canada, in India, and all over the place.
“There is a limited means of communication. You can get easily depressed.”
Dr Nandan also said that the expedition will test friendships. He added:
“You see the real character of these people when you work with them in the Arctic, under tough, emotional and technically challenging conditions.
“You get to see their real faces.”
Due to the #storm over the weekend, some new cracks showed up on our floe. The ice movement opened a lead between #Polarstern and 3 of our #science stations. The entire logistics team worked on the ice, pulling out the cables, which got trapped in the lead.
?: Esther Horvath pic.twitter.com/JMBJYJGLNc
— MOSAiC Expedition (@MOSAiCArctic) November 19, 2019
Dr Nandan grew up in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, and revealed that his current job was not something he dreamt of doing, he said it “just happened”.
He started his professional life as a junior engineer for Tata Consultancy Services where he later resigned “before they threw me out”.
Dr Nandan then sat 71 exams for different roles, from the Indian Engineering Services to the job of Assistant Locomotive Pilot.
His big break came when he received a scholarship to undertake a master’s degree in Earth Observation Sciences in the Netherlands.
On his upcoming expedition, Dr Nandan said: “It’s silent. You get this profound peace.
“I’m sure I’ll have a bigger, longer beard and moustache when I come back, with better insights about the whole planet.”
“I’ll most probably become like a philosopher-cum-saint.”