Friday, 24 April 2020

How India Captured Siachen





Operation Meghdoot was the code-name for the Indian Armed Forces operation to capture the Siachen Glacier in the Kashmir region, precipitating the Siachen Conflict. Launched on 13 April 1984, this military operation was the first assault launched in the highest battlefield in the world….

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Siachen was crucial for India. In a daring operation, India captured Siachin. Operation Meghdoot was launched on 13 April 1984 when the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force went into the Glacier. However, very few people know that the glacier operations started a full six years before that! Yes in 1978. It may seem odd to many but Siachen operations were launched in that year.

Operation Meghdoot – was the code name given to the Indian operation to capture Siachen. A battle was about to take place for the first time in the history, at the height of more than 6000 feet above sea leve, the highest battlefield in the world.. And none knew how it would end as all were certain it wasn’t going to be easy. Gen PN Hoon deployed the Northern command and the 15 Corps to the Saltoro ridge. Ladakh Scouts, and a company from 4 Kumaon was deployed along with a unit of M18 and Cheetah helicopters from the Air Force.

A chain of command was established. Lt Col Pushkar Chand would be the Task Force Commander with Captain Sanjay Kulkarni heading the platoon from 4 Kumaon to Bilafond La. Major AK Bahuguna would be heading the Ladakh Scouts to Sia La and Lt Col DK Khanna would be taking on Gyong La with 19 Kumaon.

The first target for Operation Meghdoot was to occupy the Siachen glacier, specifically Indira Col, Sia La, Bilafond La and Gyong La the most important points on the Saltoro ridge. But at an altitude of around 6,500 feet India had to face an enemy even more lethal - the weather.The temperature in the glacial areas drops to below -30 degree Celsius. Basic tasks like breathing, talking and walking start feeling tough and difficult.


The soldiers on ground would risk High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, Hypothermia, frost bites and even Amnesia. Pilots were warned about acute sunburn and a condition known as white-out when after looking at vast stretches of white snow and no landmarks, pilots face spatial disorientation.A training camp was set up for the troops at HAWS, High Altitude Warfare School run by Col Kumar where the troops would be getting training in mountain warfare and acclimatizing.

All troops including Capt. Sanjay Kulkarni and Lt. Col Pushkar Chand sans the Ladakhi Scouts,who were a mountain-based force that were already acclimatized to high altitudes. They needed thermal coats, pants, balaclavastents, ice axes, goggles, ice shoes which were available only in Europe. But when Gen Hoon contacted their supplier in Europe they were privy to an essential piece of intelligence. The supplier, while readily offering another supplier’s number, voiced his inability to service Gen Hoon. Because there had been an order for more than 150 pieces of winter equipment and gear by Pakistan. In Pakistan, a meeting was held in December 1983, in the GHQ Operation Room under the chairmanship of President General Zia-ul -Haq. In this meeting Maj Gen Pir Dad Khan (Commander of the Northern Areas) was given the task of pre-empting occupation of the passes, reaching there not later than May 1984, as weather conditions before that period would not allow the use of helicopters and the PAF. This decision, to launch their operation in May was a serendipitous moment for India.

Brig Channa was correct. Years later Pakistan’s Military Dictator General Pervez Musharraf would admit in his book “In The Line of Fire” that India “pre-empted us”.Any action on the glacier was only possible around mid- June.  But Brig Channa wasn’t ready to wait that long.  His tactic was surprise. It was a race, and the winner takes Bilafond La and Siachen.What stayed with him even 35 years later was when he questioned the delivery of the new equipment which could be delayed and asked the men if they would venture into the subzero terrain with less than adequate clothing? The answer, he remembers, was a vociferous yes!

Lt Gen Hoon, Air Marshal MSO Wollen, Commander-in-Chief, Western air command, AVM A Dayala, Air officer commanding of Jammu and Kashmir and Maj Gen Shiv Sharma carried out a sortie over Sia La and Bilafond La.The weather was not on their side. It had started snowing and they could feel a storm building.The other intense fear other than the impending storm was the winter clothing.They were on the threshold of the Operation and as yet the essential equipment hadn’t arrived.

On 13th April at 0530 hours a Cheetah helicopter took off from Base camp to Bilafond-la. It carried Capt. S.K Kulkarni and a soldier. Sqdr Ldr Surinder Bains told Capt Kulkarni that he isn’t sure if the snow can withstand a landing. He asks if they could jump. Capt Kulkarni says that they can, but how would they know if they wouldn’t get immersed in the soft snow? The dummy sackwas dropped, it lands with a thud. It was safe to go down; Capt Kulkarni and his JCO take the plunge. Sqdr Ldr Bains did 17 sorties to deliver 27 soldiers. At 0700 hours an Indian flag was planted on top of Bilafond La The first point of Saltoro ridge was secured. However, within 3 hours of landing, they had to evacuate their radio operator who suffered from HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema) despite being trained, acclimatized and fit. Now Capt. Kulkarni had a radio, but no radio operator, which was vital for their operations. 29 men remained at Bilafond-La but tragedy struck within 48 hours, when another soldier died of Hypoxia and they were down to 28. And of these 28, 21 had got severe frostbite. They could not proceed beyond their camp location because of poor weather. They could not do that on the 14th April again because of bad weather. The moment of victory of the 13th of April turned to nervousness because of the storm that picked up from the evening of the 13th April and lasted till the 16th April. Everything came to a standstill.

The ground troops from the Base camp however had started to establish camps 1, 2 and 3 along the route to Bilafond-la.This task was completed by the 15th of April. Major Bahuguna who had to move to Sia-la was meanwhile grounded at Base Camp because no helicopters could fly. Meanwhile Captain Kulkarni’s last resort of switching on of the radio to pass on the information of a soldier’s death had been picked up, as expected. They were paid a visit, and it wasn’t a friendly one. Things were getting very uncomfortable for Brigadier. All eyes in Northern Command and the Military Operation Directorate were turned on him. Sending troops in winter on the glacier now seemed a bad decision and the entire onus was on him since he had been stubbornly adamant on the date and final call. And after 3 days, the storm abated. The Indian Air Force flew over 32 helicopter sorties, a record on 5 Cheetahs and 2 Mi8’s to drop Major Bahuguna and 29 men 5 km east of Sia-la. The Ladakhi scouts under Maj. Bahuguna trudged 5 km,up the treacherous slopes, movement beingextremely difficult because of the heavy snowfall, to reach and occupy Sia-la.

While Capt. Kulkarni had occupied Bilafond-la on the 13th April, Major Bahuguna had Sia-la under his able command by the 17th April. Lt. Col. D.K Khanna meanwhile, with 19 Kumaon, was moving slowly to the highest and most treacherous peak, Gyong-La which they would eventually occupy by the first week of June. The top brass in Northern Command now decided to take stock.Since the Indian soldiers were visible to an immense number of Pakistan planes flying furiously back and forth overhead, and the fact that India had beaten them to the glacier, meant that a backlash was inevitable. Sam- surface to air missiles-7, 2 detachments were inducted at Sia-la and Bilafond-la on 22nd and 23rd April. 2 Zu-23-2 guns were airlifted by Cheetahs to Bilafond-la and the Siachin glacier. 2 Zu-23 guns were deployed for the protection of the Leh airfield and 2 more for the Thoise airfield. Indian intelligence had had reported a formation of a Burzil force on the Pakistani side, in the 80 Infantry Brigade.They had launched Operation Ababeel to evict Indian troops and capture Bilafond La and Sia La.

Capt Sanjay Kulkarni, well established with his platoon on Bilafond-la had put a system in place where every hour the sentry would come and give a report and Kulkarni would respond by saying ok or Ram Ram. He had posted one sentry at the edge of the pass about 500 metres from where the tents were pitched, called the listening post. The sentry would stand at the farthest point possible to look out for any Pakistan troop movement. From that position the sentry could see at least a kilometre into Pakistan territory.It was a monotonous and physically demanding task. The first serious attack came on the 23rd of June at 0450 hours. 26 Pakistani casualties were reported that day. The Indians had lost one man, but this wasn’t the last attack. In June Pakistan attempted another attack, but it was repulsed by the Indians. In August 1984, two more attacks were mounted by Pakistan but they were foiled on both the accounts,and Pakistan suffered 30 odd casualties.

Meanwhile Gyong-La, the highest point at 18,665 feet had been secured by Lt. Col. D.K Khanna,and the whole of Siachin was now under the control of the Indian Army. These daring operations by brave soldiers fighting on two fronts, the weather and Pakistani soldiers trying to dislodge them from their positions. The Pakistanis tried many a times taking heavy casualties, finally realizing that the Indians were there for good. To keep Siachin, the country has to spend a heavy amount on logistics, clothing and food for the men who keep vigil in hostile conditions.







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Scientists say they have found a way to extract colour from black

Researchers claim they have found a way  of extracting vivid colours from patterns typically seen as black. Surfaces appear black because their nanoscale structures that reflect light are completely disordered, causing all light to be absorbed. With a technique to control the way light passes through the disordered surface, they reproduced a Chinese water colour painting with high colour accuracy.
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Picture Post:
Kadri Manjunath Temple hot water
 springs & tanks, Mangalore, India
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Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Elevator to the Moon, it's possible!






Space elevator  to reach the moon is no longer a distant dream,; it is now a possibility. And the elevator between Earth and moon is more than a possibility. It can be a reality soon. It will be the longest elevator ever built. It will help to transport men and material to the moon and in turn transport rare minerals mined from the moon....

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It’s an incredible idea to install an elevator to Moon. It might sound crazy or weird. Actually it’s possible. It’s easier and less expensive than you think. In 1910 scientist Fredrich Zander described an elevator to the moon in his notes. And in 2019 Cambridge University student Zephyr Penoyre and Columbia University student, Sandford proposed Spaceline, a lunar space elevator to carry humans and cargo to and  from the Moon.

Penoyre and Sandford, a graduate student in astronomy at Columbia University and a co-author of the study, call their lunar space elevator concept Spaceline. Its central element is a cable that would be anchored to the moon and span more than 200,000 miles to a point above Earth's surface — perhaps an orbit about 27,000 miles from our planet. The cable of a lunar space elevator couldn’t be anchored to Earth’s surface because the relative motions of the moon and our planet wouldn't permit it.



Sending rockets to the moon is too expensive, and if we have to settle there, hundreds of trips might be needed every year. A permanent space elevator might work out cheaper to transport men and material. A lunar elevator could significantly reduce the costs and improve reliability of soft-landing equipment on the lunar surface. For example, it would permit the use of mass-efficient, low thrust drives such as ion drives which otherwise cannot land on the Moon. Since the docking port would be connected to the cable in a microgravity environment, these and other drives can reach the cable from low Earth orbit (LEO) with minimal launched fuel from Earth. With conventional rockets, the fuel needed to reach the lunar surface from LEO is many times the landed mass, thus the elevator can reduce launch costs for payloads bound for the lunar surface by a similar factor.

 Since it was first dreamed up by the Russian rocket scientist, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, supposedly inspired by looking at the Eiffel Tower, and later refined by another Soviet engineer in 1959, many people have pointed to a space elevator as the solution. The latest proposal—that building a space elevator from the moon to Earth orbit is theoretically feasible.

A lunar space elevator or lunar spacelift is a proposed transportation system for moving a mechanical climbing vehicle up and down a ribbon-shaped tethered cable that is set between the surface of the Moon "at the bottom" and a docking port suspended tens of thousands of kilometers above in space at the top.

Spaceline – 321,869 km-long cable fixed on moon surface, thin as pencil lead and made from Kevlar might cost around $ 1 billion. The cable from the moon will end thousands of kilometers above earth. Rockets will to carry you to the end of the rope. Solar powered robotic capsules glide to and from the Moon. About 53 trips needed to recover cost of Spaceline. It will cart rare metals like neodymium and gadolinium, which are used in electronics, from Moon mines to Earth orbit.

The basic idea behind a space elevator is to do away with the requirement of carrying all that fuel with you while going up, by building a giant cable and climbing up it. This isn’t as ludicrous as it sounds. Imagine such a cable, extending into space with an orbiting counterweight, which could be an asteroid or a space station, on the end of it. Just like in a game of tetherball, the centrifugal force from that orbiting counterweight as it rotates around the Earth pulls the rope taut. If the cable is long enough, that centrifugal force can be enough to support the weight of the cable, suspending it: a vast elevator to the sky. 
Once you have this elevator to space, robotic ‘climbers’ on the outside crawl up the rope. You can send payloads into low Earth orbit, geostationary orbit, or further out into space—all just by choosing how far to climb. If the tower is tall enough, simply letting go at the top flings you into deep space, escaping Earth’s orbit entirely.

Regardless of the design, the economics of the space elevator always look glorious: sending mass into low Earth orbit could be reduced from $10,000 per pound to $400 per pound. Some estimate that an elevator could be constructed for as little as $6 billion. Compare this to the space shuttle program, which cost a total of $209 billion by one estimate.

It sounds wonderful. But, of course, all the creative designs so far have been torpedoed by one flaw: What do you make the cable from? The cable has to support a tremendous amount of tension without snapping. Since part of that tension is supporting the cable’s own weight, the less dense the material, the less force it will feel. So you need a material that’s lightweight and can be pulled without breaking. Steel, titanium, and almost everything else you can think of would simply snap under the forces involved.



For a while, it was thought that maybe carbon nanotubes might provide the solution—they’re the first material designed that might get up to the strength required. But issues abound here, too. Manufacturing them at sufficient purity is extremely difficult. A single defect can ruin the strength of the material. Then there’s the fact that the cable might be vulnerable to lightning strikes and, if you’re not sold yet, the fact that the longest ever carbon nanotube cable manufactured was around half a meter, falling an agonizing 35,768 kilometers short of the length required.

The new design, which the authors dub the Spaceline, circumvents some of these nasty requirements by proposing that the cable should be built on the moon and dangle down to Earth orbit. This immediately does away with the counterweight. The Earth’s gravity pulling down on the cable is sufficient to hold it taut.

The major advantage is that the cable does not need to be nearly as strong, as it need not support large amounts of cable mass in Earth’s strong gravitational field, but instead in the weaker lunar field. This means that you could actually make such a cable with materials that exist: the authors note that Kevlar, the same material used in bulletproof vests, could be up to the challenge.

The major disadvantage is that the cable can only extend slightly closer than geostationary orbit, which is still a long distance from Earth’s surface. So you’ll have to make that first stage of the journey and grab the rope by yourself. But for the cool price of a billion dollars, this lunar space elevator could enable regular travel to the moon’s surface with only a third of the fuel.

While this doesn’t solve the problem of escaping Earth’s gravitational field—you’ll still need rockets and the miserable physics of space launch to reach the Spaceline in the first place—the authors envisage some potential advantages, alongside saving fuel costs once you reach the line. For example, the cable would run through the Lagrange point between the Earth and the Moon—in other words, where the Earth’s gravitational pull cancels out the Moon’s gravitational pull. This is one of the regions in space where you can actually dream of stably constructing a floating base. And the Spaceline could transport materials from the moon to Earth orbit for, well, for whatever it is we want to build there—satellites, spacecraft, space stations, you name it.

The idea of using the Lagrange points as stepping stones—beyond our only current space outpost, the ISS—is an exciting one that offers many benefits. Not least, it gives humanity a workable project to focus on whereby we can develop all of the ancillary technologies that are going to be necessary to achieve anything practical in space. If we are ever to leave the cradle of our civilization, we’ll need all the ingenious ideas we can get.

Future space travelers would use a spacecraft to fly from Earth to the end of the dangling cable, which would be held taut by Earth's gravity, and then transfer to solar-powered robotic vehicles that would climb up the cable to the moon. The voyage might take days or weeks. Return trips would simply reverse the process.








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Indonesia has world’s largest Buddhist temple

The Borobudur Temple, located on the Indonesian island of Java, is the largest Buddhist temple. Built in the 9th century during the reign of Syailendra dynasty, the temple was constructed with approximately 56,000 cubic meters of volcanic stone, has around 504 Buddha statues and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels. It was restored with UNESCO’s help in the 1970s.
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Picture Post

Lake Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India
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Saturday, 11 April 2020

How a Cargo Ship helped win World War 2: The Liberty Ship Story





They made history because of the way they were built. Their design was deliberately basic, which allowed them to build thousands, as most of them were constructed in just few weeks. And they weren’t expected to last long. Their lifespan was only five years. The sole purpose being, the ships make at least one trip across the ocean with much-needed cargo. That’s how desperate the situation was. The task of constructing Liberty class ships was assigned to 18 shipyards, spreading across the coastal United States. The task was to build the ships at an incredible rate.....

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The World War was at its peak with the allies and German in a fight for control of territory. In the frigid autumn of 1940, hundreds of cargo ships sailed across the Atlantic in a desperate effort to keep Britain supplies in its war effort against Nazi Germany. But they were decimated by enemy ships and submarines. In 1940 alone Germany sank over 1,000 allied ships. Britain was at a great risk of being starved of supplies. The Allies response was simple. Build thousands of cargo ships and build them faster than Germany can ever hope to sink them. In just four years, American constructed over was 2,700 Liberty class cargo ships and each was built not in months but mere weeks and some in matter of days.
These hastily built ships were loaded to the brim and sailed overseas. And they were to help the Allies win the war.

By late 1940, much of Europe had fallen to Nazi Germany and the British Commonwealth now stood alone in its fight. But the island nation was being starved of much-needed supplies for its war effort. German U-boats, warships and aircraft were inflicting heavy losses to the shipping traffic, sinking ships faster than Britain could replace them. The United states, although not yet at war, was playing a vital role in supplying Britain in its war effort. And its enormous industrial capacity was critical to helping Britain stay in the fight. But with Germany sinking ships daily, Britain and America desperately needed a way to keep all that war material moving.


The problem was, in the entire decade prior, America had only built a couple of dozen ships. So at the start of 1941, US President Franklin Roosevelt announced the emergency shipbuilding program. It was an enormous effort to produce ships on an unprecedented scale. But to do that, they would need to build a special kind of ship, dreadful looking objects. That’s how President Roosevelt described Liberty ships when he first saw their design. Time magazine nicknamed them ugly ducklings. They were not much to look at and from a design and structure, there was nothing remarkable about them. With 10,000 tons of cargo capacity, they were a large ship of the day, but were also obsolete. The design was 60 years old. Based on a British ship built in the 19th century, they were powered by an antiquated compound steam engine. They are actually under powered. If the Atlantic ocean waters are rough, sailing in the wrong direction, Liberty might not be able to move forward at all. Most Liberty ships were given a 3-inch bow gun and a 4 or 5-inch stern gun along with anti-aircraft weaponry as defense. They were managed by a crew of 45 volunteer Merchant Mariners and 12-24 Navy armed guards. But in reality, the heroic men served aboard these ships were vulnerable and paid a heavy price. Liberty ships weren’t remarkable for their capabilities out at sea.


They made history because of the way they were built. Their design was deliberately basic, which allowed them to build thousands, as most of them were constructed in just few weeks. And they weren’t expected to last long. Their lifespan was only five years. The sole purpose being, the ships make at least one trip across the ocean with much-needed cargo. That’s how desperate the situation was. The task of constructing Liberty class ships was assigned to 18 shipyards, spreading across the coastal United States. The task was to build the ships at an incredible rate. By 1943, these shipyards would have to launch on an average a new ship every eight hours.

The two revolutionary changes in the technique of working would make a great impact in the fast construction of the ships. The first was welding as until then almost all ships were built by riveting pieces sheet metal together, a slow process requiring skill and physical strength. But the workforce would not be all skilled as most were farm hands and a third of the workforce would be women. Welding would drastically speed up the assembly process.

Sailing in a convoy
The second revolutionary step would be assembly line logic applied to the shipbuilding industry. Instead of building a ship from start to finish, thousands of components will be manufactured at the same time at different locations and then brought to the ship yard for final assembly. Earlier, when it used to take six months to construct a Liberty class ship; by 1944 it was taking on an average only 42 days. And shipyards would compete to see how fast they could build the ships. One yard would finish a ship in a month and another would break this record, doing in just three weeks. In November of 1942, the Richmond shipyard in California managed to build a Liberty class ship in just four days and fifteen hours.

And one ship broke in to two just as some early Liberty did break in half. These ships were notorious for developing serious structural cracks. Welding instead of riveting meant that cracks could easily spread throughout the hull. Revolutionary changes in shipbuilding had some drawbacks and it had to be set right.



Out at sea, Liberty ships were vulnerable not because they lacked defense weapons, but mainly because they were slow. Convoys of 50-60 Liberty ships would sail along at just 10 miles per hour. And at full throttle could push to 13 miles per hour, while the German U-boat could do 20 miles per hour at sea. And this made them easy target for the Germans especially at night. To improve the odds, Liberty ships were guarded by escorts.

The more vulnerable Liberties, those loaded with ammunition or fuel, would travel at the centre of the formation. But the men serving on a Liberty Ship always faced danger and were stressed as hundreds were sunk or critically damaged by the Germans throughout the war. But by mid 1941, the sheer number of Liberty’s out at sea along with an increase in their armed escorts, overwhelmed German forces. Advance in anti-submarine technology also reduced the U-boat threat. By mid 1944, the United States began to focus on producing a new type of wartime cargo vessel – the Victory ship, which would never be built on the scale of Liberty, as these were larger and faster, making them less vulnerable to attack.

After the war, many Liberty’s were put into reserve fleet or sold off to post-war merchant cargo fleets. By 1960's their obsolete design made them far too expensive to operate and most of them were sold as scrap. Today only two or three remaining Liberty’s of the 2,750 survived reminding us of their enormous contribution of winning the Second World War.








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Oil for all seasons:

Today there are many branded and attractively packaged oils, but coconut oil has been used in India, especially coastal areas for ages. It is a multi purpose oil, used in cooking, hair care, skin care, massaging and even medication too.
It suits all hair and it nourishes the hair, boosting hair growth, helps to rid of dandruff, dry scalp and providing nutrition and giving a shiny sheen to hair.
It is also good for skin care, especially people with dry skin. It tends to keep the skin smooth, soft, supple and glowing.
It's excellent for body massage. People apply it normally or sometimes warm it a bit. Either way it works for your body, hair and skin. A weekly application is ideal.
And the best thing about coconut oil is, its natural. In the coastal states its still widely used. Forget the branded oils, cream and gel, try coconut oil and feel the difference. And it's back in fashion too not only in India but abroad too.
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Bharata, My Brother
by Anil Kumar Naik

- Foreword by Shri Asaranna Swami,
Durga Parmeshwari temple, Kateel, Karnataka.

Price: Rs 200 + P&F Rs 50
(NB: P & F chrgs for India)




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Picture Post
Dharmastala temple, Mangalore,
Karnataka, India.
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Anil Naik
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Email: akn929@yahoo.com





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