E Dongchen, hailed as the "father of polar surveying and mapping", takes part in the building of the Zhongshan scientific research station in the Antarctic in this 1989 file photo. He died on Thursday at 80. (Photo/Chutian Metropolis Daily)
E Dongchen, a pioneer of China's polar exploration hailed as the "father of polar surveying and mapping", died Thursday at 80, reported Wuhan-based Chutian Metropolis Daily.
E took part in China's first Antarctic and Arctic expeditions and played a key role in building the country's first polar research base in the 1980s.
E was born into a poor farmer's family in Guangfeng, Jiangxi province, in 1939. His father and grandmother were killed by invading Japanese troops during war. He did not enter school until the age of 11, and before then he served as a cowherd.
Recalling his childhood, E said in a speech: "The miserable days taught me an unforgettable lesson: Chinese people can only gain dignity when the motherland becomes strong."
Back in the early 1980s, 18 countries worldwide had established their research stations in the Antarctic. As a latecomer, China joined the Antarctic Treaty in 1983.