IIT student-scientist dies on Antarctica expedition

Subhajit Sen, hailing from a village in West Bengal and a student of IIT Bhubaneswar, was part of the 37th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica. He died near Indian research station Maitri.

Written by ANJALI MARAR | Pune | Updated: March 29, 2018 5:32:06 am
IIT student, IIT student in Antarctica, IIT student dead, Antarctica expedition, Indian express Indian scientists in Antarctica. (Source: ncaor.gov.in)

A FORTNIGHT before he would have turned 24, Subhajit Sen, a Indian student-scientist died in an accident in Antarctica Wednesday, the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR) said.

Sen, hailing from a village in West Bengal and a student of IIT Bhubaneswar, was part of the 37th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica. He died near Indian research station Maitri.

He had been selected on account of a research project he had undertaken —“Deformation — Fabric in sub-glacial till exposed Schirmacher oasis” — as part of a short-term research team during the ongoing expedition, from November 2017 and April 2018.

The young scientist suffered severe trauma following an accident late Tuesday while travelling on the Indian Envoy route to Maitri station, said M Ravichandran, director of Goa-based NCAOR, the nodal agency for the annual expedition under the Ministry of Earth Sciences.

“Sen met with an accident during convoy operations at Ice Shelf and suffered major trauma on late evening of March 26. Though he was immediately given medical aid at the expedition vessel, where doctors tried to revive him, it went in vain and he died within an hour,” Ravichandran told The Indian Express Wednesday.

Medical teams are deployed both on board the vessel meant for ferrying the researchers, and in the research stations. Sen was airlifted to the vessel. The convoy operations were nearing completion and the vessel was expected to have sailed back to India soon, sources said. Flight operations from Antarctica are suspended after February.

The distance between Maitri and the Ice Shelf, the last point where the vessel can go, is approximately 80 km. Convoy operations are planned only during summers in Antarctica (March), and usually last for about two weeks.

“This is the most critical part of the expedition as the researchers are transporting their materials over ice,” said Felix Bast, senior scientist with the Department of Plant Sciences at Central University of Punjab, who had been part of the 36th expedition team.

There have been incidents in the past when scientists accidentally stepped onto hidden crevices during convoy operations, escaping narrowly. According to sources, at least four Indian scientists have died in previous accidents in Antarctica, while another scientist died of a heart attack.

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