Two intrepid devotee explorers are set to travel to the last frontier, and bring kirtan and Srila Prabhupada’s books to Antarctica – the southernmost and coldest continent in the world.
The continent is largely uninhabited and 98 per cent of it is covered by ice, but it does have a tourist season and many international research stations to reach out to. One thing’s for sure – venturing there is a unique offering to Prabhupada for ISKCON’s 50th anniversary.
The two devotees set to travel this November are Kesihanta Das, a Prabhupada disciple and co-director of ISKCON Alachua’s Save the Cow program; and Trivikrama Das, bass player for Vaishnava hardcore band 108.
Cow protector Kesihanta (left) and 108 bassist Trivikrama, the two intrepid explorers set for Antarctica
“During the Prabhupada arrival festival at Boston’s Commonwealth Pier last year, many devotees were giving exciting and inspiring talks about Srila Prabhupada’s achievements, saying he went to six continents,” Kesihanta says. “That got me thinking – what about the seventh continent? What about Antarctica?”
To the best of his knowledge, Kesihanta says, no devotees have yet traveled to Antarctica in a missionary capacity. “We wanted to get there first before Indradyumna Swami found out,” he jokes.
Kesihanta and Trivikrama will leave on November 13th from Ushuaia, which is the capital of Tierra del Fuego in Argentina and is considered the southernmost city in the world.
From there they will take the MV Ushaia, a small 88-passenger ship originally built for the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. The journey to the Antarctic Peninsula will take two days, and will cross the Drake Passage.
“We’ve been advised to wear prescription motion sickness patches, because the seas are generally very rough – it’s called the Drake Shake,” says Kesihanta. “Especially because our ship is relatively small, we’re expecting to feel it more.”
On the voyage, the devotees will observe the Western calendar day of Srila Prabhupada’s disappearance – November 14th – with a half-day fast and arati to their four-inch Prabhupada murti.
The Krishna South flag devotees will place in Antarctica, with the ISKCON 50 logo on the other side
For them the voyage, and any harsh weather or hardships on it, will be a meditation on Prabhupada’s bravery and determination through his trip to the USA on the steamship Jaladuta.
Kesihanta and Trivikrama will be arriving in Antarctica on November 15th. In winter, the continent sees four months of total darkness, weekly hurricane force winds, and unfathomable temperatures as low as 89.2 °C (−128.6 °F).
Fortunately, November is its summer. And coupled with the fact that their destination is the Antarctic Peninsula – the northernmost point with weather less extreme than the South Pole -- the devotees will find temperatures “only” reaching freezing or just below.
They will, however, be sending Krishna’s message and Srila Prabhupada’s words to the South Pole.
“We are in touch with someone who works with the three year-round U.S. research stations in Antarctica, and has agreed to place pocket editions of Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita in their libraries,” says Kesihanta. “The stations are the Amundsen–Scott Station in the South Pole; the McMurdo Station, which is the largest research station in Antarctica; and Palmer Station, on Anvers Island off the coast of the Peninsula.”
The information plate in the Bhagavad-gitas devotees will be placing at U.S. research stations in Antarctica
Kesihanta and Trivikrama will live in their ship off the coast of Antarctica between November 15th and 21st, but will go ashore in large rafts called zodiacs daily. So they also plan to personally place copies of Bhagavad-gita As It Is in the libraries of research stations like Britain’s Port Lockroy Base, Argentina’s Brown Station, and Ukraine’s Vernadsky Research Base.
“We even brought a Ukrainian Bhagavad-gita for the Ukranian station!” says Kesihanta.
The devotees also plan to hold several kirtans, with kartals and mridanga, outside on the Antarctic Peninsula. They hope that some broad-minded fellow adventurers will participate, as well as a few penguins!
At least one of their kirtans will include guru-puja with a full set of arati paraphernalia to Srila Prabhupada, who will be set up on the ice on a fold-up table and his vyasasana.
Surrounded by glaciers, Srila Prabhupada will be dressed in a saffron parka specially made for the trip by Kesihanta’s wife and Save the Cow co-director, Devaki Dasi.
The team's 'ISKCON Antarctica' t-shirt design
Kesihanta and Trivikrama will also place a Hare Krishna banner and a “Krishna South” flag in the ice to claim the final frontier for Srila Prabhupada.
Despite Antarctica’s remoteness, Kesihanta says there is further scope beyond his groundbreaking expedition to share Krishna consciousness there.
“During the summer, there are about 4,000 researchers at the different research stations,” he explains. “And the largest one, McMurdo, becomes like a whole city, with all sorts of events and concerts. So if someone like Indradyumna Swami or Radhanath Swami got inspired from our trip, they could take the effort further.”
Ultimately, Kesihanta hopes Srila Prabhupada will be pleased. “He was always very interested in devotees’ different landmark achievements, so this is my offering to him.”[ atartctica ] [ kirtana ]