Thursday, February 22, 2007

He's da man!

After earlier avatars as sailor, submariner and deep sea diver, my cousin Rajesh (Lt Cdr N Rajesh - he's in the Indian Navy) is now a qualified sky diver and sky diving instructor! After a mind boggling 1,130 jumps from as high as 13,000 feet, Rajesh is amongst the few skydivers in India. Recently, he was in Antarctica with his team where they carried out an extremely dangerous and unprecedented training sky dive over the White continent. Here is an extract from the Naval press release:

Instructors of the Indian navy Lt Cdr N Rajesh Chief Instructor and Lt cdr MV Birajdar carried out an Accelerated Free Fall Training jump (AFF Stage –1) for a novice girl (Ms Shital Mahajan) on 15 Dec 06 at a temporary drop zone near Patriot hill 80.21 S Latitude (Antarctica). The Naval Officer Instructors trained Ms Shital for her 1st ever free fall jump and made her sky dive holding her on either side from a height of 11600 ft AGL (14500 ft MSL approx).

Skydiving is a high-risk adventure and sport activity and training a novice poses a higher degree of responsibility and risk on the part of the instructors. It is extremely dangerous to carry out in a hostile atmosphere such as in Antarctica. The temperature at the exit of the sky divers was Minus 38 deg Celsius at 11600 ft AGL and the wind chill would have been about Minus 90 to 110 deg c. The 3 sky divers (2 inst and 1 student) accelerated to a abnormal speed of 208 kmph due to rarity of the Antarctic atmosphere. Also due to sudden & extreme changes in temperature the goggles froze and the white continent with its sastrugis posed a dangerous landing ground. The skydivers reported that their hands were frozen (frost bite happens in few minutes of exposure at that temperatures and wind chills) when they opened their parachute. They had difficulty in handling the control line and locate and in the DZ. It was sheer survival instinct, which drew them to bear the extreme cold and got to land the Novice safely after a rather safe free fall.

A couple of years ago, I asked Rajesh what it felt like to sky dive. His reply was that after a few jumps, "it feels like Nirvana!" What an achievement! How I wish he'd take me skydiving some day!!

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