The tsunami that wrought destruction in many coastal regions also caused damage to the marine ecology.
To study the exact nature and extent of devastation India's [ Images ] most prestigious scientific research vessel, Sagar Sampada, is now on a 'tsunami expedition' to the country's east and west coasts, which were ravaged by the killer waves.
Sagar Sampada is a multi-purpose fisheries and oceanographic research vessel that has been carrying out survey of India's Exclusive Economic Zone since 1984. It is maintained by the Department of Ocean Development.
The state-of-the-art research ship sailed out of the Kochi harbour in Kerala [ Images ] last week to make an on-the-spot assessment of how the tsunami impacted the marine wealth, the sea bottom and its living resources. The ship will also collect data on sea organisms, sediment samples and check hydrographic parameters at the tsunami-hit coasts.
A team of 12 top researchers, oceanographers and scientists from across the country, headed by Dr R Damodaran, former dean of the Department of Marine Sciences of the Cochin University of Science and Technology, are on board to conduct the studies.
The Centre for Marine Living Resources and Ecology and the National Institute of Oceanography is coordinating the expedition.
"It is the first major research project to understand how the sea behaved during the tsunami. We will study the current state of marine resources and hydrographic characters of the sea, including dissolved oxygen content, turbidity, salinity and nutrients," Dr Damodaran told rediff.com before he boarded the ship for the expedition.
The vessel is currently collecting data on the west coast, especially in Kochi, Kollam, Thiruvananthapuram and Kanyakumari. It will then move on to the worst hit seacoast in the east, like Nagapattinam, Cuddalore, Chennai, Krishnapattinam and Kavali.
The data generated by the research vessel will be compared with those obtained from studies conducted by the ship along India's Exclusive Economic Zone in the sea.
Interestingly, the research vessel had come to the Kochi harbour from Colombo just a day before the tsunami struck It had gone to Colombo for some major repairs.
Reports said that the office space allotted for the scientists and crew of Sagar Sampada in Colombo had been ravaged by the tsunami.
Sagar Sampada has been carrying out oceanographic and fisheries survey in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone for many years now.
It had participated in a 75-day successful Krill Assessment Cruise during December 1995 to March 1996, covering 33 sampling stations and making 16 trial hauls in the southern ocean for collecting data on distribution and abundance of krill and other living resources.
In the last few years, the vessel has conducted 10 major cruises covering a total track length of 18,531 nautical miles, both in the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal, to study living resources and the oceanographic factors influencing their distribution.