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Siachen Glacier: Everything you wanted to know

Siachen Glacier:  Everything you wanted to know

'Sia-Chen' means the land of wild roses from the Balti dialect of Tibetan. However, Siachen Glacier is the world's highest battlefield at a height of 6000 meters located in the Himalayas at the Northern edge of India. An altitude, where the average snowfall is 1000 cms and temperatures hover around -50* Celsius.

A little Science
So, for those of you who bunked your geography classes, Glacier is a heavy mass of snow on land, which moves slowly, very slowly due to its own weight. The heavy weight and pressure of ice pushes out the air bubbles from it, giving it the characteristic bright-white colour. As this super heavy mass of snow moves down the slope with gravity, the difference in under-support caused to due to melting, loosening or even weight of a human being can trigger an Avalanche. An avalanche is a huge mass of snow which falls and further snowballs into an even larger mass. This Avalanche creates havoc and mayhem destroying everything in its path. Anyone trapped under such a huge volume of snow has bleak chances of survival and freeze and suffocate to death.

Siachen Conflict
The Genesis of the problem lies with the Karachi agreement of 1949 which marked the Indo-Pak boundaries ONLY till point 'NJ9842' and added the words "thence north to the glaciers". It was assumed that No nation would try to fight over such a piece of wretched, frozen and barren land. However, Pakistan started to establish control over the access to siachen area through entry-passes and finally made a plan to occupy the icy heights in 1984. They ordered for special mountain climbing equipment to scale the heights from a supplier in UK, Luckily the same supplier also supplied to Indian Army. With the stroke of genius, India ordered 300 sets of Arctic weather equipment and dispatched a brave detachment to occupy the deathly heights. On 13 April 1984, a team of Ladakh scouts and Kumaon regiment set foot at Bilafond La.
Over the period of time, a number of skirmishes and attacks have been launched by both sides, but formidable spirit of Indian soldiers has prevailed.

10 Unique things our Soldiers do to Survive Siachen
1. The temperature dips below -50* C and if you touch anything including your rifle or metal, you will suffer frostbite or chill blains within 10 seconds. They have to wear gloves always.
2. The oxygen content is 10% of what is in the plains. Even while lying down, breathing is an effort.
3. There is no vegetation, trees or even grass. It's a white blanket of snow. Well, it causes depression.
4. Soldiers routinely suffer from Depression, Pulmonary disorders, embolism, Mountain sickness, Hallucinations, loss of appetite due to inhospitable weather.
5. Everything is frozen - snow is heated for use as drinking water.
6. Many posts are cutoff from supplies and world. They have to do an advance winter stocking for six months to survive the harsh winters with limited
pre-delivered supplies. Eating pre-packed food laced with preservatives makes the soldiers nauseous with loss of appetite.
7. Survival depends on innovative methods like soup and water parades, where the 10-12 Soldiers and officers on a lonely post gather to have warm soup and water to keep themselves fighting fit.
8. Bathing can make you ill, soldiers bathe once a month.
9. The soldiers get to make a weekly or monthly short call to their family members; hence they rely heavily on letters.
10. The world's highest helipad is at Point Sonam, Siachen at 21,000 feet.

As the retired colonel Yashpal said "Siachen, It's a hell, in the back of nowhere"!


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