The following post is an entry to an IndiBlogger contest with the theme "I am explorer!" - held by "Team Tata Safari" of Tata Motors to promote the new "Tata Safari Storme" (www.tatasafari.com/). The instructions provided are as follows : "You have been chosen by planet earth to head explorations into an unknown land. Write a blog post on your brave journey and your discoveries across the final frontier! You are required to identify the different terrains and creatures that may inhabit these lands. Your planet needs you!"
To my dear future excavator who happens to unearth this,
If I were afraid to lose my life, I wouldn't have gone there anyway. I wouldn't have joined the secret Global Armed Forces either. But the truth must come out one way or another. You cannot keep the entire population of the world in the dark about something like a whole uncharted southern continent!
You might really think I was mad, or may be a pathological liar. That's no surprise; they put me in this mental asylum just to discredit me - just to keep their gigantic little secret.... secret!. The 'sheeple' of the world would never believe me at this time - I know for sure. But in fifty years - or may be five hundred - when the people of the Earth would know all to well about 'Terra Australis Incognita,' I would stand vindicated! People can never stomach the truth till it's a few centuries stale, anyway.
I am writing this diary of mine in secret and I will bury it in the back yard in a metal box for people to discover in the future, to keep my voice safe for the time.
ACT - I:
I joined the army after I got out of the orphanage in 1996 as an officer, even though the war was going on. I was an adventurer - a thrill-seeker who wanted to serve my nation. I served in the third world war between 1996 and 2009. It was 2010 when I was recruited from the my domestic army into the armed forces of a secret anti-fascist global supranational union, that my country had signed up to - The Global Armed Forces (GAF) of The Global Alliance for Peaceful and Democratic Coexistence (GAPDC). I believe they were looking for people who were unencumbered by burden of any living relative. I was sent off that summer to the GAF central command head-quarters in Vienna for a special initiation.
The people of the world believe that the 3rd world war was fought against fascism as had been the case for the previous two. But this one was different. You see, back in the year early October 1985, something earth-shattering happened - quite literally. An undersea shield volcano that had been erupting unnoticed for the past ten thousand years, finally broke out of the water centered around the 90 degree East 300km north of the coast of Antarctica and lying wholly beyond the Australian Antarctic territorial claim area. It was a thin band of land, a mere 100km wide but 700km from east to west with the antarctic circle cutting across its length. The Soviet geostationary satellites were the first to pick it up, but due to the severe financial crisis in the erstwhile USSR, they were unable to lay claim to it single-handedly. Still, they tied up with the allied powers to claim it for themselves - unbelievable, I know.
All the powers that had knowledge of the incident kept it secret so as to minimise the risk of invasion and allowing them to build the new GAPDC territory on it. But some people got greedy and left the GAPDC to invade and conquer and carve-up the territory for themselves. That led to the initial skirmishes between the GAPDC navy and navies of the the rebel alliance. information was controlled so tightly that no-one even get to know which nation was on which side.
After the rebels were defeated and made to fall in line with the old charter, the territory (now codenamed "Terra Australis Incognita" - "unknown land of the South" - "T.A.I" for short) was jointly governed as planned. The T.A.I charter was amended to proclaim its riches for all of humanity. By now, I was a three-star officer and, I was now sent over, along with a platoon to secure the frontiers and also do a bit of exploring.
ACT - II:
My team consisted of a geologist (Jim), a paleontologist (Prakash), a land-surveyor(Altaf) and an ecologist (Edwin), with myself at the helm. Samples and readings were required to chart out the mineral wealth of the T.A.I and for maps to be. Early in March, soon after my initiation and briefing about the real details of T.A.I, the five of us set out on a two day expedition into the north-western tip of T.A.I. The area had yet to be surveyed. We packed our supplies and set off on our 4x4 off-roader driving over the barren basalt hillocks.
T.A.I was nature at her infantile extreme. There were trees on the rocky undulating plains - a wide expanse of overlapping layers of still-slightly-warm basalt all the way to the horizon. It was quite strange to note ice falling on the ground and immediately melting away into little streams that trickled in all directions pooling into little shallow lakes everywhere. We were wrapped appropriately in our woolens, for this was around the Antarctic circle in March (which is almost winter down south). But to our great amusement, we found hot-springs everywhere we went letting our clouds of smoke.
We were headed for some yet-unnamed hills in the north-western coast. We drove for three hours over the slippery undulating surface. Jim the geologist was educating us about how these volcanic land-masses form. He pointed at the layers of lava and said that a volcano spews lava successively and layers build up. He warned us that there may be unstable areas of land where magma still flowed underneath. Driving over one of these would me diving head-first into a pool of lava. At one spot, we noticed the plume of steam from of hot-spring was tinged orange. Jim told me to drive slowly and towards it. We dropped our speed to just 5km/hr and kept listening intently for any sound of the land cracking. As we approached it sufficient, Jim told me to stop. We went over on foot, carefully to find an open tube of magma. He took some readings and collected a small lava sample with a little wire thrown into it. The temperature was 2500 degrees Centigrade. Altaf took readings and found the elevation to be merely 10 metres above sea-level.
We walked back to the car and went ahead. We reached the little hills in about 4 hours since we were now driving slowly to avoid lava tubes. We stopped a few time in between too, to allow Jim and Altaf to take readings and samples. On one such stop, Prakash, found a 10-foot triangular object, that looked like the tooth of some prehistoric animal. He said, it might be the tooth of an Ichthyosaur and that the skeleton must be nearby. We noted the GPS coordinates of the place so that he could return later with his team for a dig.
The as we approached the coast, we started to notice patches of green on the gray rocks. They wren't grasses - Edwin told us. They were lichen. These are early species that colonise any new land and help break-up the rocks to form soil for the plants. He told us, that in about fifty years or so, T.A.I would be covered in grasses or even trees. Quite like the Mongolian steppe. With global warming, who knows, it even might become a full-fledged forest-land.
We camped for the night at the foot of the hills once we reached there at sundown. the sun would be up in just a few hours and, we decided to leave the car behind and trek up the next morning. That night, we slept in out tents with the temperature going down to twenty below zero. the ground was still warm and kept us cozy. At dusk, we stood outside to look at the stars that filled the sky. We even saw the milky way. Looking up, I felt quite like an explorer, as if on another planet. The feeling was quite overwhelming.
The next morning, we set off for the summit that was closest. Altaf, reckoned, tat it was no more than 500 metres high - an infantile mountain on an infantile continent. At the top of the hills, looking northwards, we could see the Indian ocean lapping against the the foot of the cliff. Its blue tranquility, contrasted starkly against this barren terra nova. Looking towards to south-east, we could see the barren steaming land of T.A.I flanked by the Indian and the Antarctic ocean all the way to the horizon. We were all left speechless.
We returned back to base the following day.
ACT - III:
Politics or no politics, keeping people in the dark about T.A.I for "as long as feasible" was unacceptable to me. The reason behind this seemingly illogical secrecy was soon clear. The GADPC bosses were just trying to line their own pockets by exploiting the wealth of T.A.I for keeps sake. The fabled T.A.I charter proclaiming the wealth of T.A.I for all of humanity was no more than hollow words. Mining contracts were sold to the highest bidders and kickbacks paid to fund elections and lavish life-styles back in their home countries. There was no government that could stop this. The people of the world never knew. Nobody, who ever arrived on T.A.I knew where they were actually going. T.A.I colony was supposedly a part of Western Australia. Nobody back home suspected. regular flights arrived and left as if this landmass was always there. You cannot understand where you are flying to just by looking out the window. The pilots were were paid off and it was in their interest to keep quiet - dissent meant death.
I was determined to spill the beans and put T.A.I on the global map. I was a senior army officer. I knew that my friends wouldn't let me be killed even if I was caught. I drew up a press release for the media back home.
When I came back, I had a hard time finding a journalist who was willing to cover the story. They all believed I was nuts. One person, though was uncannily eager to hear me out. The news of my actions soon reached the establishment and I was on their radar. This guy was their agent. Once I started speaking, I was arrested and flown back to T.A.I colony. That meant only one thing - I was to be silenced one way or another. My friends saved my life but I was branded a lunatic and placed here in this mental asylum.
My dear excavator, I hope you know all about T.A.I, don't you? I hope you tell my story to the world for me. I hope you aren't one of those miners digging through this plot of land to extract ores. I hope not. I hope these papers do not end up in a blast furnace with the ores being smelted. That's all I can do - hope Hope dies hard. Hope lives on.