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China launches 40th Antarctic research mission

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-11-01 22:51

Members of China's 40th Antarctic scientific expedition set sail from Shanghai on Wednesday. The team will work for five months to build the nation's fifth polar research station in Antarctica. Provided to China Daily

China's 40th Antarctic scientific expedition team set sail on Wednesday, launching a five-month mission that will involve building a new research station on the polar continent and studying the effects of climate change on the region's ecosystem, among other tasks, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources.

This is the first time the country's Antarctic research mission will be carried out by three vessels — polar icebreakers Xuelong and Xuelong 2, and cargo ship Tianhui.

While the two icebreakers with over 460 staff from more than 80 domestic institutions on board set sail from the home port in Shanghai, the cargo vessel loaded with construction materials for the new research station departed from Zhangjiagang in East China's Jiangsu province.

The fleet is scheduled to return in April, according to Long Wei, deputy director of Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration, a subsidiary of the Ministry of Natural Resources.

The new facility, which will be located in the coastal area of the Ross Sea, will be China's fifth Antarctic research station, following the Great Wall set up in 1985, Zhongshan in 1989, Kunlun in 2009 and Taishan in 2014.

When completed, the research base will also be the third perennial one after the Great Wall and Zhongshan stations, and the first facing the Pacific Ocean sector, Long said.

The Ross Sea, the surface of which is frozen solid for most of the year, is among the last intact marine ecosystems on the planet, said Sun Bo, the Party secretary of the Polar Research Institute of China. Home to most of the world's penguins and many species of whales, it is the first protected area in Antarctica.

Long said the new research station, which is estimated to accommodate 80 people in summer and 30 in winter, will play a pivotal role in multidisciplinary observation, monitoring and scientific research work on atmospheric environment, marine basic environment, marine ecosystem and other areas.

The expedition team will conduct comprehensive surveys in the Prydz Bay, the Cosmonauts Sea, the Ross Sea, the Amundsen Sea and the coastal waters around the Antarctic Peninsula for in-depth study of the role Antarctica plays in global climate change.

The scientific mission also features international cooperation, such as cooperative research in the frontier fields of Antarctic science and the Enderby Land aerial survey with Norway, Australia and other countries, which is aimed at deepening understanding of ice-ocean bedrock interactions and ice sheet stability.

Cooperation will also be carried out in logistics support with the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, South Korea, Russia, Chile and other countries.


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