Thursday, 31 March 2016

There Is a Very Thin Line Between Heaven and Hell at the North Pole - My Saga of Maiden Parachute Jump of Life Over Geographical North Pole

Maiden Parachute jump of life over Geographical North Pole.

On 18 April 2004 at 2100 h (IST), I set a new World record by becoming the first woman in the World to make a maiden Parachute Jump of my life over the North Pole. I am the fourth Indian, and the second Indian woman, to Parachute over the North Pole. However, the unique feature of my expedition was that while the other three who Para Dropped over the North Pole had a few hundreds of Jumps to their credit and two were professional Para jump instructors of the India Air Force.

Padmashri award winner Mrs. Rachel Thomas is one of them and she had 15 years of professional Para jumping experience before she undertook this expedition over the North Pole. I carried out the first ever Parachute Jump of my life over the North Pole. In fact I had never ever set foot on an Aircraft before, until I went for this expedition.

Having done so, I have proved to the World community that India too has an exceptionally high level of professionalism and expertise in the category of “High Risk Adventure Sports.” I have brought laurels not only to my Country but also to the whole world as such. There are very few women in our country who venture into adventure and I hope this feat of mine will give a perceptible uplift to the world's perception of the Indian women.

I got motivated by listening to Sqn Ldr Kamal Singh Oberh's accomplishments over the North Pole and Antarctica; he is the first and the only Indian to have skydived over both the extremes of our planet, the North Pole (Arctic) as well as the South Pole (Antarctica).

Parachuting is the most adventurous, most challenging and the most exciting of all the adventure sports.  It is an extreme form of adventure sport and calls for sheer guts and raw courage to undertake this sport. It is a sport one cheat's death every time one lands safely.

North Pole does not spare anyone who comes here without total and complete preparation. Your equipment, clothing, rations, logistics etc, everything has to be just perfect and there is no room, whatsoever, for anything less than this.  You cannot have excuses for the lack of any of these.

North Pole is really very very tough and means total business. It does not supply to poorly planned expeditions, low morale, and improper equipment. North Pole strictly does not believe in giving a “Second Chance”.

There is a very thin line between Heaven and Hell at the North Pole.

The Borneo Base Camp is a huge mass of ice that floats over the Arctic Ocean. It was approximately 2 meters thick ice on which the Base Camp was established.

The Base Camp was established only in the month of April each year for various groups of scientists who come to the North Pole for carrying out various scientific experiments.The area is first scanned through the satellites, the thickness of the ice sheet is measured, and the size of the ice block seen before the Borneo Ice Airport is established.

The most interesting part of the Borneo Ice Airport is that as it rests on a huge ice mass that floats over the Arctic Ocean, it keeps drifting because of the currents in the ocean and the high winds. The same goes for the North Pole. While you may be at the North Pole, you could not be there after few moments as it is also over a huge mass of ice that keeps drifting like the Borneo Ice Airport. The Ice Airport was located very close to the Geographical North Pole.

The Drop Zone was selected at the Geographical North Pole primarily because of the importance of its location that makes the place so special – The Top of The World!

The most dangerous thing that is involved in Parachuting over such places, like the North Pole or the Antarctica is that the depth perception is absolutely zero. When the Parachutist jumps out of an aircraft all that they see only one color that is white. For thousands of kilometers there is nothing but snow, snow and snow. As a result, it becomes difficult for the human eye to judge the depth of the ground. In normal when one Parachutes in normal places there are numerous things like buildings, trees, different shades of agriculture fields, roads, etc, and you get the rough estimation of height. However, over the North Pole it is very difficult to know whether you are at 2,000 Feet above the ground level or are just at 500 Feet.

This may have serious implications on the Parachutist's decision to deploy the reserve parachute in case there is any problem with the main parachute. It may also affect the landing, as one may not be very sure about the depth of the ground.

In addition to this the different layers of clothing that one has to wear to protect himself from the extreme low temperatures becomes bulky.  This drastically reduces the free movement of the body.  The feel of the hands gets significantly reduced due to the different layers of gloves.  All these things put together make a Parachute Jump over such places extremely vulnerable.

The first Indian woman to parachute over the North Pole was Ms Rachel Thomas, who skydived over the North Pole on 20 April 2002 along with Sqn Ldr Kamal Singh Oberh of the Indian Air Force. Rachel had more than 700 skydives to her credit when she undertook the North Pole Expedition.

I am the second Indian Woman to Parachute over the North Pole, but the first in the World to make the maiden Parachute Jump of her life over the North Pole itself.

On landing at the North Pole, I hoisted the National Flags, the Tri – Color. It was a very touchy and proud moment for me to unfurl the National flag at the most extraordinary place in the world.It was for the first time that I was hoisting a National Flag. It was beautiful to see the Tiranga fly over icy land of the North Pole.

 I felt that as though the Tiranga was congratulating me on the accomplishment of mine. It was flying so beautifully. The saffron, the white, the green, and the chakra made the North Pole look so beautiful. It was a very touchy moment for me. I don't think I'll ever forget these special moments ever in my life. I felt a great sense of pride that I being the underestimated Indian women was the one who was doing it.

I am not part of any club or association in India while undertaking this expedition.  I undertook the North Pole Expedition as an Individual, in my personal capacity.

The Parachuting Sport speaks for itself.  All those who undertake this challenging sport are the people who have always wanted to fly and reach out for the sky.  The sport gets people very close to the 'edge'.

The most important thing that I learnt on completion of this expedition was that, there is nothing in the World that cannot be achieved. As long as you can dream it, you can also achieve it.  As long as you want to achieve something in life, you will most certainly do it.  Moreover, if you don't achieve it, it would only mean one thing, that you probably never wanted it from the very core of your heart.
I remember the days when Kamal Sir would tell me, It is very important for us to 'Dream', and not only to dream, but dream 'Big'. Neither unless nor until you have Big Goals, Big Dreams, and Big Ambitions in life, how could you possibly achieve something big in life?

The day you give up, it's all going to end there. You will not move any further in life after that. In my case, I had taken a vow that I will keep trying until the last day. And I did not give up on that.

Finally, I from an average middle class Maharashtrian family did what no other woman in the World has done.  On 18th of April 2004, I set a new World Record over the North Pole, thereby adding yet another chapter in the adventure sports of our country, and proving to the World community of extreme adventure sports seekers that India, not very far behind, is just around the corner!

Parachuting is not only challenging and demanding but at the same time extremely dangerous too.

You could have a perfect and safe landing or escape with minor bruises.  On a bad day, you could end up in a hospital with broken legs or broken spine.

All is well until all goes well. Else, you leave the World with an ever-lasting impression on the ground!

Very few women have undertaken a Parachute Jump over the North Pole.

This is not the end of adventure activities for me. “It's just begun,” Am talking about the second jump of my life over the white continent of Antarctica.