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Chinese Research Vessel Departs for the Arctic

Xuelong

By MarEx 2016-07-12 15:29:53

Xuelong (Snow Dragon), China’s polar research vessel, left Shanghai on Monday for the Arctic, the country’s seventh expedition to the polar region. 

Scientists on board will undertake research on marine chemistry, ecology, geology, geophysics and sea ice dynamics with the aim of determining how rapid changes in sea ice in the Arctic will affect China’s climate. They will release submerged buoys and radio balloons which have been fitted with GPS to collect a range of long-term data.

The worst blizzard to hit South China in 50 years occurred in 2008, and snowstorms in North China and other Asian countries in subsequent years have been proved to be associated with the decrease of sea ice in the Arctic, said Liu Na, a researcher with the State Oceanic Administration.

American and French scientists had been invited to join the 128-member research team on a 10,000-sea-mile journey that is expected to take 78 days. The move is hoped to promote peace, stability and sustainable development in the Arctic region, said a spokesman from the State Oceanic Administration.

In addition to areas covered by Xuelong's previous Arctic expeditions, the ship will also visit the Mendeleyev Ridge in the Arctic Ocean. 

Last year, China conducted its 32nd Antarctic expedition with the vessel.

Xuelong is the only Chinese icebreaking research ship currently in service. Built in Ukraine in 1993, the ship was converted from an Arctic cargo ship to a polar research and re-supply vessel by China in the 1990s.

The ship has undergone four conversions, two undertaken by Jiangnan Shipyard.

A new polar research vessel is now being built that will feature higher ice capabilities, better research capabilities and be more comfortable and environmentally friendly. It is expected to be completed in 2018.

China has four research stations in Antarctica but none in the Arctic.