Mr. Vijay Crishna, who
is an industrialist, actor and explorer all rolled into one, warned at
the last meeting that the greatest danger to planet earth is the belief
that somebody else is going to come and save it. It’s we who have to do whatever we can – and we have to do it as soon as possible.
the eco-system of the Antarctica is fast disappearing and “the
Antarctic peninsula is warming at a rate ten times faster than anywhere
else on earth”. Although the rest of the South Pole is still bound by
the huge icecap over the whole continent, the peninsula is starting to
crack up and the ice shelves breaking up.
The ice shelves which
are going out into the ocean are serving as a kind of blockage to the
glaciers that are coming off the mainland. But once the ice shelves
start breaking away, then the ice on the mainland will also start coming
down into the ocean.
Mr. Crishna was speaking at the last
meeting on “Journey to world’s end” that saw him travel by a special
ship, the 2041, to the South Pole. He made the above observations while
answering a query by Shyyamniwas Somani who wanted to know about
pollution control measures in the Antarctica.
With the tourism industry growing by
leaps and bounds, there had to be strict controls. For this reason, all
those reaching there by ship went through a lengthy process of cleaning
their boots to make sure that they didn’t carry anything (germs and
other organisms) to the mainland for fear of the deleterious effect of
influences on the delicate life forms existing there.
man who was allowed to lead expeditions was the great Sir Robert Swan
who was the first person to walk unsupported to both Poles in 1986-89.
His patrons, Mr. Peter Scott and the famous diver Jacques Cousteau, had
asked him to encourage
youth to protect the continent. They said that
if youngsters were thus encouraged, they would put pressure on their
Even otherwise, the Antarctic had become a
potent metaphor for fragile earth’s challenged eco-systems. Mr. Swan
had named his organisation and his yacht 2041 – the year in which the
Madrid Protocol ban on mining in Antarctica would end. He had already
taken over 1,000 young people to experience Antarctica at first hand. Mr. Crishna made the trip recently.
“Mr. Swan is an operator and has been an explorer himself; he understands
things and how to control them. He takes one team per year; therefore
is allowed to do things such as camping out in the nights... using
sleeping bags and lying on mats, which makes it fairly cold and wet for
it rained the first night and snowed the next!”
Mr. Crishna was
introduced by Sabira Merchant who pointed out that the guest speaker was
one of those soft-spoken, self-effacing people who never told anybody
what they were doing, until they had been there, done that and worn the
He had acted with her in innumerable plays, sometimes as her doctor, as her lover, her husband, her son and so on. But not everyone knew that he had been a life member of the Himalayan Club since 1973 and had trekked in the Himalayas for a long time, as also in the Tibetan plateau and in the Antarctic. Sabira
added that Mr. Crishna ran the Nowroji Godrej centre for plant research
at Shindewadi in Satara district which propagated rare and endangered
species of medicinal plants endemic to the Western Ghats.
Soon, it would
launch reforestation work over 500 hectares of barren land in
conjunction with the forest department of the Maharashtra government.
his presentation, which was peppered with slides, film and video clips
and his own commentary, Mr. Crishna recalled the history of various
attempts at circumnavigation of the globe as also the travails of the
various expeditions to the South Pole and how the “race” to get there
first entailed terrible hardships and cost more than a few lives.
de Magelhaes, a Portuguese mariner who had spent eight years in Goa,
Cochin and Quillon, was the first person known to have made a serious
attempt at circumnavigation.
He was funded by the King of Spain and
set off in 1519 with a five-ship fleet. Although he was killed en route,
his partner completed the world’s first circumnavigation in 1522.
then Francis Drake, an English privateer, slave-trader and explorer,
followed him through the same Straits of Magellan, becoming the second
circumnavigator in 1580.
Mr. Crishna also mentioned the
endeavours of many other explorers such as Naval Lieutenant James Cook,
Captain Robert Fitzroy in his ship the Beagle, Ernest Shackleton in the
Endeavour, the Norwegian Roald Amundsen who beat everyone to reach the
South Pole in 1911 and Robert Falcon Scott who reached the Pole 33 days
after Amundsen and who died exhausted.
The Beagle captained by
Fitzroy carried a young naturalist and geologist named Charles Darwin
who, after studying the natives of the region, came away with the
humbling perception that humans were not biologically special and that
they were descended from monkeys which, in turn, came from even humbler
And then he screened the video film on his trip to the
Antarctic under the leadership of Sir Robert Swan starting from Ushaia,
the southern-most city in the world.
The vote of thanks was proposed by Nandan Maluste.