Chinese scientists have set off from Shanghai for their 26th research mission to the Antarctic. The Snow Dragon, China's main research ship in the polar region, has gone through a series of maintenance and technical readjustments, according to Global Times.
The new Antarctic season will last six months and cover a distance of more than 30.000 miles, the longest mission to date.
One of the main objectives of this season is collecting remains of meteorites and astronomic observation. The “Xue Long” carries a record 252 scientists and technicians including for the first time several from Taiwan. Russian and Australian scientists have also been invited.
A team of scientists will remain at the Zhongshan base in the bay of Prydz from where it will cover 400 kilometres to the Grove mountain range to collect as many meteorites as possible. China has the world’s third largest collection of meteorites.
Another team will land a the Kunlun base which is situated 7.3 kilometres southwest from the Argus summit, the highest point in Antarctica with 4.093 metres above sea level. The purpose is to install astronomic surveying equipment.
Two other teams will explore inland Antarctica.
China’s first Antarctic base, Changcheng (Great Wall) was established in 1985 south of King George island, and the second Zhongshan in 1989 south of the Prydz bay, in the Mirror peninsula east of the Larsemann hills.
“Kunlun” is the first Chinese base in continental Antarctica.
In the last 25 years China has completed 4.000 trips to the Southern Pole, according to the Chinese Institute of Polar Research.
“Xue Long” is expected back in Shanghai in late April 2010.
MV Xue Long, built originally as a polar cargo ship by Kherson Shipyard, Ukraine, on March 25, 1993, became the only research ice-breaker in China after elementary modification in 1994, for the Arctic and Antarctic regions. It is the re-supply vessel and the scientific research platform of the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic research expeditions. The vessel is 167 meters long and 22.6 meters beam, with the full-loaded draft of 9 meters, the full-loaded displacement of 21.250 tons, and the cruising radius of 12.000 nautical miles.
It is an A2-class ice-breaker with capability of breaking ice 1.2m (including 0.2m thick snow) at a sailing speed of 2 knots and can sail with the maximum speed of 17.9 knots, and also sail even during the weather of gale with more than 12 B scale.
The vessel has a data processing centre and seven laboratories with total area of 200 square meters and basic operating equipment on board of this vessel, including a low temperature sample storehouse, a low temperature cultivation room, a clean laboratory, a marine biological laboratory, a marine chemical laboratory, a geological laboratory, and a CTD winch, a biological winch, a geological laboratory, and a hallow-section device of EK-500 model.
Besides, 3 operating boats and a helicopter are equipped for the transportation and research purposes in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.