March 24 - June 28, 2006
GONDWANALAND expedition is a friendship and scientific mission. A team of
Indian scholars and scientists will drive from the Himalayas, where India
met Asia, to Cape Agulhas, the tip of Africa, across 17 countries, over 100
days, covering a distance of about 35,000 km
most of geologic time there were only two primordial continents: Laurasia
in the north and Gondwanaland in the south, separated by the Sea of Tethys.
Gondwanaland consisted of Africa, peninsular India, Australia, South America,
Antarctica and Eurasian regions south of the Alpine-Himalayan chain. About
265 million years ago, this continental togetherness began to split. For
200 million years, India, Arabia, and Apulia (consisting of parts of Italy,
the Balkan states, Greece, and Turkey) drifted across the ocean, and finally
collided with the rest of Eurasia 65 million years ago. The collision
uplifted the Alpine-Himalayan mountain ranges extending from Spain (the
Pyrenees) and northwest Africa (the Atlas) along the northern margin of
the Mediterranean Sea (the Alps, Carpathians) into southern Asia (the
Himalayas) to reach Indonesia.
The objectives of
the Gondwanaland expedition
To conduct exploratory
geological research that will contribute to our knowledge of the
continental structure and bring to light evidence of past history.
Study the seismic activity in the Indo-African region as a result of plate
tectonics that cause catastrophic disasters like the recent Gujarat and Iran
earthquakes and the tsunami. The study can further the knowledge of
predicting earthquakes on land and seabed.
promote people-to-people contact between India and the countries of West
Asia and Africa
promote UNAIDS message of "Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise"
Areas of Study
The geological evolution of India and Africa before these two
geo-brothers were separated in the Mesozoic age will be of particular
interest to the expedition scientists in making a comparative study on the
aspects of Pan-African progeny and Achaean to Proterozoic continental growth
in India and Africa.
Between Gondwanaland and Angaraland (i.e. Eurasia) lay a vast ocean (several
thousand kms wide) called the Tethys. Rock formations laid down on the north
facing continental margin of Gondwanaland of India and Africa are today
exposed in the Himalayas, Iran and Turkey, along the route of the proposed
expedition. The Tethys Ocean was closed as a result of the northward
movement (convergence) of India and Africa against the northern continental
blocks of Eurasia. The sites of the closed Tethys Ocean are characterised by
the occurrences and remains of oceanic crust and deep marine sediments of
the Tethys Ocean. The areas of closed sites are called the suture zones. The
expedition will pass across the east-west trending belts of suture zones at
several places in northern and southern Iran and Turkey.
Continent - Continent collision of India and Africa against the continental
blocks of Eurasia produced crustal shortening, uplift and gave rise to
on-going seismicity. The study of past earthquakes and of on-going
seismicity vis-a-vis the tectonic structures in Iran and Turkey, to be
conducted by the expedition scientists, is of vital interest and of
significant relevance in understanding the earthquake geology and seismicity
of the Himalayas and peninsular India.
The East-African Rift system is one of the classical examples of geology of
the earth. The geochemical evolution of the volcanic rocks of the
East-African rift will be taken up for study in order to gain a better
understanding of its evolutionary history.
The expedition will provide an opportunity for scientists to conduct
exploratory research, review and synthesize existing knowledge, while
getting acquainted with and observing the geological features.
The expedition team will
comprise of geologists, seismologists, anthropologists, botanist, and
zoologist nominated by the Government of India. A television crew will
accompany the expedition. A medical doctor and a vehicle engineer will also
be on board.
Akhil Bakshi, Fellow
of the Royal Geographic Society, will be leading the expedition. He has
earlier led the following three major international expeditions:
Central Asia Expedition (1994),
which drove 12,000 km on the old Silk Road across Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan,
Kirghizstan, Chinese Turkestan and Tibet.
Azad Hind Expedition (1996),
which drove 10,000 km from Singapore to Delhi via Malaysia and
Myanmar to refresh the national memory with the sacrifices made by the
soldiers of the Indian National Army during the freedom struggle.
Expedition Hands Across the Borders
(1999), which drove 18,000 km through the interiors of Sri Lanka,
Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and India to promote peace and development in
As in the previous
three expeditions, the team will carry a Goodwill Message from the Prime
Minister of India to his counterparts in countries along the route. The
team will meet with friendship associations; interact with public representatives,
press, youth organisations, research institutes and academicians. Adequate
media coverage will be ensured in all countries.
Message from the Prime Minister of India
The expedition, to be undertaken in three Mahindra & Mahindra
Scorpios will start from Shimla in the Himalayas, where India met Asia,
and move through the central Indian region of Gondwana, from which
Gondwanaland derives its name, in reference to the Upper Paleozoic and
Mesozoic formations of this region, which display some of the shared
geologic features of the supercontinent. From the port city of Mumbai,
the vehicles sail to Bandar Abbas in Iran and continue driving through
the historic cities of Shiraz, Persepolis, Isfahan, Tehran and Tabriz
into Turkey. Crossing the Anatolia Plateau and the Taurus Mountains into
the Syrian Desert, it visits the ancient ruins at Crac des Chevaliers on
the Mediterranean coast. Continuing south, through Jordan and the Dead
Sea, it reaches the holy city of Jerusalem. Crossing the Suez Canal past
Gaza strip, it enters Egypt.
Following the Nile Valley, south through the Eastern Desert, it drives
on the fringe of the Sudanese Nubian desert into Khartoum, the
confluence of the Blue Nile and the White Nile. Crossing the Ethiopian
Highlands, it moves east into the Danakil Desert and then south to the
Great Rift Valley. It follows both arms of the Great Rift Valley,
visiting lakes and volcanoes that lie along the fault lines: Lake
Victoria in Kenya and Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania;
Lake Nyasa in Malawi; into Zambia and Zimbabwe. Cutting across into
Mozambique, it moves south via Swaziland to South Africa, following the
Drakensberg Range, uplifted when Gondwanaland fragmented, ending the
expedition at Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa.