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India Today: A Kerala scientist’s Arctic quest: nosy bears, unending night and icy zen

November 29, 2019 — 

As India Today reports:

For a man planning to spend winter on an Arctic ice floe plunged in darkness, Vishnu Nandan seemed in no hurry to pack.

Asked on Tuesday if he had begun, he answered coolly: “Nope.”

The emoji on the WhatsApp screen smiled in the manner of one obviously flirting with danger. “I will start tonight,” Nandan said.

Danger is abundant where Vishnu Nandan, a remote sensing scientist from Kerala, is headed. It is, in fact, one of the few abundant things in a wilderness ruled by scarcity: a scarcity not just of warmth — the last sunlight for months was an amber sliver on the horizon before it vanished — but also of colour and comfort.

Later this week, Nandan, 32, will begin a three to four-week journey from his home in Calgary, Canada, to the RV Polarstern, a German research ship frozen in place atop moving sea ice near the North Pole — not unlike a chocolate chip encrusted in a cookie. Snowstorms are common here. Temperatures, in the negative, read like respectable test cricket scores. Deeply inquisitive polar bears roam free.

But where there are perils, there is also intellectual excitement. Polarstern is essentially a floating lab; for a whole year it will be home base for hundreds of experts from 19 countries, all taking part in a polar expedition of unprecedented scale. They will collect valuable new data about the Arctic’s changing climate, whose effects are felt across the globe.

Vishnu Nandan, 32, is the only Indian on the ship; he represents both his country and the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Earth Observation Science, where he’s currently a post-doctoral fellow. He will remain on board till late February.

In phone interviews with, he explained how his own expertise helps the expedition, known as MOSAiC (Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate).

Read the full story here.


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