China / Sci-Tech

Scientific researches undisturbed on stranded Chinese icebreaker

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-01-05 21:59

ABOARD XUELONG - Scientists aboard Chinese icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, continued their researches in Antarctic on Sunday with even greater passion after the vessel was trapped by heavy floes a day earlier.

The icebreaker found it unable to move in an area of thick ice on Saturday, some 21 km away from the nearest ice-free waters, two days after ferrying all passengers aboard a stranded Russian ship to an Australian icebreaker.

However, the team aboard Xuelong on China's 30th scientific expedition mission to Antarctica was making full use of the extended time in the polar region.

Gao Jinyao, a researcher from China's State Oceanic Administration, said it was a surprise to be able to collect precious data from a geomagnetometer he had set up on the vessel, as the area where it was stuck is close to the South Pole.

"The data will be first-hand materials when we study submarine tectonics and build the earth's geomagnetic field model ..." said Gao.

Meanwhile, members of the exploration team also enriched their data bases using floes observation devices and air sample collectors.

As researches went on, all 101 people aboard Xuelong -- crew members, scientists and journalists, were also taking various measures to get out of the trouble.

To ensure the its safety, the icebreaker has created a one-km-long "ice-breaking runaway," waiting for favorable weather conditions to break the siege.

Wang Jianzhong, captain of Xuelong, told Xinhua Saturday that the vessel temporarily stayed in the area and waited for opportunities as it was hard to move with one iceberg ahead and another moving closer slowly from behind.

The vessel could get rid of trouble as long as it could break through the thickest floe zone some two nautical miles (about 3.7 km) long, Wang said, but it is important to find a chance to sail through the area with rapidly drifting icebergs and floes.

Xuelong used an onboard helicopter Thursday to evacuate all the 52 passengers on the Russian vessel Akademik Shokalskiy, which had been stranded since the Christmas Eve, to Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said the Chinese icebreaker's attempt to manoeuvre through the ice early Saturday was unsuccessful.

But Xuelong has told AMSA that it was safe, not in distress and did not require assistance at the time; while AMSA has confirmed that there was no immediate danger to personnel aboard the vessel, which has food supplies for several weeks.

Liu Shunlin, head of the Chinese mission, said that a wind from the west could be expected on Monday and Tuesday, which could loosen the floes around the iceboat and open a window for it to break through.

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