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Guides to the Final Frontier


We, the Citizens

By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer

Our Final Frontier is not Outer Space, but Inner Space: the vast Indian territories which lie beneath the waters of our Exclusive Economic Zone, and those which extend beyond:  over our Continental Shelf. Here lie virtually untapped resources of food and minerals. In these bountiful Indian territories we still have only a Hunter-Gatherer Economy like our primitive ancestors. With the possible exception of the Cultured Pearl industry of Japan we do not farm our waters. Sea-farming colonies would be far easier to develop than Space Colonies. If we poured half as much tax-payers’ money into Ocean Development as we did into ISRO, the returns would multiply much faster than they do in an ISRO investment.

India – Maldives Joint Hydrographic Survey: By INS Sutlej

But do we have enough knowledge of Inner Space to invest profitably in such a venture? Yes we do, and we have been acquiring it for many generations. This has been the dedicated task of those super-specialist personnel who bear the proud title of Hydrographers.

Doon’s National Hydrographic Office is the epicentre of their varied National and International activities. Today, it joins the Hydrographers of the world in celebrating World Hydrographic Day

Demarcation of the sunken wreck M/v Xpress Pearl Off Colombo by INS Sarvekshak

Employment Opportunities Unlimited

We humans are surface creatures. Even on the topmost floor of the tallest building we still cannot escape this dimensional restraint. We still need parachutes to lower us gently to the surface. The opportunities for employment are, consequently, limited by our inability to soar. But no swimmer is restricted by this constraint. If, for instance, Aquanauts were required to farm the rich, and towering, kelp gardens of the undersea world, they could operate in three dimensions effortlessly. Employment opportunities would triple.

Nature seized this opportunity when large land-animals which were the ancestors of whales, returned to the sea and, using the natural bounce of water, grew to become the largest mammals on earth. They still, however, need to come up for air and they still suckle their young though mother whales pump milk into their babies’ mouths to balance the pressure of the deep ocean.

INS Darshak Carrying out hydrographic Survey at Mauritius

But there is no need to speculate on the future wonders of evolution. The ocean, today, is for us to harvest here and now.

There is another dimension that harvesting the ocean can open.

Cross Cultural Relations

Recently, a remark made by a spokesperson of a political party caused a storm of indignation to sweep across nations. Long established bridges of understanding were shattered. Economic sanctions were imposed. And yet the bonds of cooperation between the Hydrographers of many of these nations remained as strong as ever.

The true movers and shakers of nations washed by the shared waters of the same ocean, realise that continued prosperity depends on keeping the oceanic trade and cultural routes open at all times. China for all its bullying bravado realises this. It knows that land routes are terribly vulnerable for sabotage by agitators. It is worried about the growth of India’s maritime power and it has sent its under-water probes deep into our waters in a literal testing of the waters. We, on the other hand, possibly because we have no seafaring communities represented in our Movers and Shakers, prefer to look the other way.

But, as frightened little children have learnt, the bogey-man under the bed will not go away if the child closes its eyes. This is because the ‘bhoot’ will grow in the mind as long as it is not confronted.

Finally, some ill-inormed netas don’t seem to realise that all across the world, all through history, people have welcomed dictators to bail them out in times of crisis. The Brits welcomed the well-read but bigoted Churchill during WW II. The turmoil of the Arab Spring saw the fall of Saddam. The Big Don failed in his version of the Storming of the Bastille. Imran Khan, for all his eloquence, came a cropper. And the Great Wheel of Dharma is still grinding exceeding small. People don’t want diktats delivered by pontificating Big Brothers. They want to be taken into confidence when their money is being spent.

Netas should not blame political parties for creating the ongoing students’ agitation. Blame those instant messages on smart-phones. They allow only enough characters to express indignation, inflame anger. The answer to this is not bluff, bluster and bullying. Spin doctors cannot weave their illusions fast enough. The only answer is to explain the dangers that lie ahead, and chart the safest passage to the future. That, dear netas, is the Hydrographic way. Make a clear chart of the hazards that lie ahead. Tell your voters how you intend to navigate through those hazards safely. Then leave it to them to decide. That is the Democratic way.

It is foolhardy to act and then retract. It is really difficult to sail backwards, as any Hydrographer will tell you.

Brief on Indian Naval Hydrographic Dept

The Hydrographic Department of the Indian Navy has been quietly evolving over centuries, hand in hand with sea travel. The early sailors navigated their ships, discovering routes by trial and error and documenting their precious information on closely guarded charts, the art of discovering safe routes grew into the highly specialised branch of hydrography. Kick started by the colonial businessmen, the department turned into a veritable hive of activity with the Indian Navy coming into its own in independent India. Today, having achieved the status of the National Hydrographic Office, its role of looking out for the safety of mariners has expanded from a national to an international role of assisting the world community with more focus on the Indian Ocean region.

 Our Outreach

In keeping with the vision of the country such as SAGAR and ACT EAST policy, numerous challenging tasks and surveys have been undertaken for Mauritius, Seychelles, Tanzania, Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Oman and Kenya which have further fostered our relations with these countries.

Till date, INHD has undertaken 82 hydrographic surveys for ten foreign countries and has published 74 charts and ENCs in foreign waters. Over 300 charts and ENCs covering the Indian sea area and also of foreign countries are available.

Permanent Bridges

A hydrographic training team has been set up in Mauritius with joint efforts from Indian Hydrographers and Mauritian Surveyors. It has been designated as the Regional Hydrographic Training Centre for Africa, the Persian Gulf and the South East Asian Region and has trained 839 trainees from 41 friendly foreign countries.

With two permanent stations in Antarctica, the INHD participation in the IHO-Hydrographic Committee on Antarctica (HCA) attains greater relevance. The department has been deputing Naval Hydrographic survey teams since 1944.  The hydrographic surveys are aimed at systematically mapping the region of Antarctica. Adhering to the country’s interest in the Antarctica region, the department has already embarked on a major charting programme of this region especially of the approaches to the Indian permanent stations.

(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 halfhour documentaries on national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 first-person articles, about every Indian state, UT and 34 other countries. Hugh was a Commander in the Indian Navy and the Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command. Colleen is the only travel writer who was a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)