KOCHI: From the highest highs to the lowest lows! Dhiju Das P H will go to any extreme in search of adventure. On October 2, the senior technical assistant at the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT) accomplished a lifelong dream of reaching Mt Everest base camp, located 5,364m above sea level, and Kala Patthar, at an elevation of 5,644m. This came after Dhiju took to the other end of the adventure spectrum: learning to scuba diving to lead the underwater research projects of his institution.
He possessed the passion to push the limits even during his school days. As an NCC cadet, he never missed the opportunity for trekking trips, whether it was to Agasthyakoodam or Suryanelli Bose Peak.
“The Everest base camp is known as ‘step to heaven’ for a good reason. The scenery is breathtaking – shifting from lush green farmlands, dense forests, glistening blue fast-flowing rivers to rocky terrain and glacial pools as we climb,” says Dhiju.
“The 5km trek from Gorak Shep to base camp on October 2 will forever remain etched in my memory. Making my way through the rocky terrain alongside Khumbu Glacier, the magnificent summit of the Everest came into view. As I neared base camp, high-altitude sickness and oxygen deficiency made my task harder. The oxygen level drops 40%, which makes breathing difficult. The return journey was much easier. While it took 10 days to reach base camp, I returned to the starting point in five days,” he said.
Dhiju, who has a PhD in fisheries science, joined CIFT as a research fellow in 2009. The 36-year-old has published 16 research papers and six books and is a certified advanced open water and master scuba diver. He is also the only DGCA-certified unmanned aircraft systems pilot at CIFT. Recently, a team of four scuba divers, led by Dhiju, completed an underwater evaluation of fishing gear fitted with the turtle excluder device (TED), developed by CIFT.
“The dive evaluation was conducted just off Poovar coast. The biggest challenge was identifying the right location. We wanted a 3km stretch without obstacles and clear water. It was conducted at a depth of 15-2om. Three scuba divers were hired for the purpose,” said Dhiju.
TED was developed by a team led by CIFT fishing technology division head M P Ramesan. The device will be cleared for commercial use by fishing trawlers after evaluation by the American National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Dhiju’s wife R Rajisha is a senior research fellow at CIFT and his children, Devamsh and Darshit, are school students.