US names Antarctica mountain after Indian-Amrican scientist

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Washington, July 2: The United States has named a mountain in Antarctica in the honour of an eminent Indian-American scientist whose pioneering biological research expedition has provided critical data about animal populations.

Akhouri Sinha, adjunct professor in the Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development at the University of Minnesota, was recognised by the US Geological Survey, which named the mountain Mt Sinha, for his work he did as an explorer in 1971-72.

Sinha was a member of a team that catalogued population studies of seals, whales and birds in the pack ice of the Bellingshausen and Amundsen Seas using US Coast Guard Cutters Southwind and Glaciers in 1972 and 1974. The mountain was named by Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names (US-ACAN) and the US Geological Survey.

Mt Sinha, a mountain (990 m) at the southeast extremity of Erickson Bluffs in the south part of McDonald Heights, overlooks lower Kirkpatrick Glacier from the north in Marie Byrd Land.

"Anyone can see the Mt Sinha, Antarctica on Google.com or Bing.com," Sinha told PTI in an interview.

"Show to the world that you are capable, don't be afraid to contact people out in the field today, and grab every opportunity," he said.

Sinha, who graduated with a BSc degree from the Allahabad University in 1954 and MSc degree in Zoology from the Patna University in 1956, said he was invited to conduct research on reproduction of Antarctic seals by the National Science Foundation Antarctic Program. He also taught in the Department of Zoology at the Ranchi College from November 1956 to July 1961, before coming to the US.

Akhouri A Sinha is known for his pioneering biological research expedition

"I went to Antarctica on two expeditions lasting for about 22 weeks on the US Coast Guard cutters, Southwind and Glacier, during 1972 and 1974, respectively," said Sinha, who has published over 100 papers and has been teaching graduate level courses for almost 25 years.

Sinha says his forefathers migrated to Buxar in Bihar from Delhi after Nadir Shah of Iran invaded Delhi in 1739. "I go to my village (Churamanpur) almost every year, preferably in February to escape Minnesota winter and to visit relatives, village friends and others."

Recollecting his research experience in Antarctica, Sinha said during the four-month research session, he and his teammates surveyed animal populations from a Coast Guard ship.

"We were often dropped via helicopter atop vast sheets of pack ice to observe and capture resident fauna," he said, adding that once he was even attacked by predatory Skua birds near Palmer Station.

"No guts, no glory," Sinha rues that the ice he once traversed has begun to disappear at an alarming rate.

Records of population sizes, types and behaviours created by Sinha and his teammates have established critical baseline data that remain relevant in today's climate change debates. The findings also constitute the first body of work to inform UN policy makers in population conservation efforts, he said.

The Indian-American scientist argues for a strong research collaboration between India and US in Antarctica.

"By partnering with the USA, India could play very constructive role in Antarctica. This may begin a new era of much needed cooperation between the two countries," he said.

Sinha said he had corresponded with Dr Syed Zahur Qasim, Secretary of the Department of Ocean, Government of India.

"I also met him to discuss my experience about 1972 expedition in Antarctica. Dr Syed Zahur Qasim led the first Indian expedition to Antarctica in January 9, 1982. India is now a signatory of the Antarctic Treaty and sends mission to Antarctic expeditions every year. This needs to be expanded," he said.

"I will be very glad to participate in this effort provided India wants my assistance. India has lots of talented people in the Department of Ocean at Goa," Sinha said.

PTI

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