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Researchers stock up on way to Antarctic

2014-11-19 09:12 chinadaily.com.cn Web Editor: Si Huan

Team will study climate change, build satellite navigation station

China's 31st Antarctic expedition group is set to call in at Hobart, Australia, to pick up supplies before continuing its journey aboard the Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, the country's only research icebreaker.[Special coverage]

The team left Shanghai on Oct 30 and is heading for Zhongshan Station, one of the nation's Antarctic scientific bases, on a 163-day mission.

Hobart, one of the main gateways to Antarctica, has been used by research and supply vessels from many countries. The Xuelong will visit the city's port to collect fuel, food and fresh water.

Hobart is 2,600 km from the Antarctic mainland, and the city's airport operates regular flights to Australia's Casey Station in east Antarctica, a distance of less than 3,500 km. The flights take 4.5 hours, providing a fast option for scientists and explorers wishing to visit the continent.

The Tasmanian capital has played a major role in the history of Antarctic exploration. The city is home to many scientific institutions and organizations, including the Australian Antarctic Division, the Commission for the Convention of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, and the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies.

The Xuelong is due to stop off at Perth in Western Australia for supplies on its return journey to Shanghai after the scientists on board carry out research at Zhongshan Station.

The team will investigate changes in the region's climate and the impact they are having on other parts of the world.

In addition, the group will carry out site inspections for a proposed airfield, the country's first on the continent, and a new research station, according to the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration.

The team will also build a Beidou satellite navigation station, said Qu Tanzhou, the administration's director.

"The station will greatly improve the country's ability to support Antarctic scientific and mapping expeditions, and help increase the accuracy of the Beidou system," added Qu.

Timeline and big events for China's Antarctic expeditions:

China signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1983.

On Nov 20, 1984, China organized its first Antarctic expedition with the country's first Antarctic research station — Great Wall Station — built during the 142-day trip. Since then, the country has conducted Antarctic expeditions every year.

On Feb 20, 1985, Great Wall Station was established as China's first Antarctic research station. The station is located on King George Island, with a peak summer population reaching 80 and winter population about 40.

On Feb 26, 1989, Zhongshan Station, the country's second station, was opened on Larsemann Hills in Prydz Bay, East Antarctica. It can accommodate 25 people in winter and 60 in summer.

On Jan 27, 2009, China's first inland station, Kunlun Station, was built at a site about 4,087 meters above sea level and 7.3 km southwest of Dome A, an ice dome on the Antarctic Plateau. Taishan summer field camp, the country's fourth Antarctic base, was built on Feb 8, at Princess Elizabeth Land, 2,621 meters above sea level with the population up to 20.

In Jan 2014, Xuelong, China's only icebreaker for polar expeditions, rescued 52 people who had been stranded since late December on a Russian research ship. The rescue occurred during China's 30th Antarctic mission.

In late October, the country's 31st Antarctic expedition team set sail for Antarctica, with site inspection of the country's first airport on its agenda. The country's first fixed-wing aircraft is expected to join the expedition in 2015.

In early 2017, an Antarctic research expedition station on the southern part of Inexpressible Island is expected to begin operations. The station covers about 5,528 square meters, which can accommodate up to 80 people in the summer and 30 in the winter.

Source: The Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration

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