Anand Haridas

Kochi: For 101 days, T.K. Ashokan could not hear crows' caw. Though he missed them badly, it was more than made up by being part of maritime history. As part of a hydrographic survey mission that his team at INS Sarvekshak, a survey vessel of Indian Navy, did along the coasts of Mauritius and the Seychelles, Capt. Ashokan did a pioneering survey of an island of the archipelago. It is not every day that a sailor gets a chance to head a survey of the coastline of a country. The one done by the Sarvekshak team along the coast of Agalega Island, around 500 miles off Mauritius, was one such.

Data obtained using the hydrographic survey are used for safe navigation, as they are used to support various maritime activities, such as nautical charting, port and harbour maintenance (dredging), coastal engineering (beach erosion and replenishment studies), coastal zone management and offshore resource development.

The Indian Navy, which has one of the largest and most modern hydrographic branches in the world, is currently assisting Mauritius in updating its charts and navigation data. In fact, the theme adopted by the Navy for this year is "Reaching out to maritime neighbours."

INS Sarvekshak is the latest in the eight-ship Indian Naval Surveying Flotilla, its motto being "pathfinder to the seafarer." Sarvekshak carries most modern hydrographic, oceanographic, geophysical equipment and systems, including a state-of-the-art digital survey and processing system, multi-beam swath echo-sounding system, the latest GPS surveying systems, gravimeters, magnetometers and sound velocity profiling system. Sarvekshak did surveys of Coetivy Island and Port Victoria, the Seychelles and approach to Mahe Island as well as Port Louis and approach to Port Lois in Mauritius. Capt. Ashokan, who had been captaining the ship for the last couple of years, is currently gearing up for another assignment. The ship will set sail before the monsoon. And for once again, he will be missing the crows and familiar sights.