China's Xuelong icebreaker returns home with a series of research advances
Updated 21:56, 12-Mar-2019
After a 131-day journey, China's research icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, returned to Shanghai on Tuesday after completing its 35th Antarctic research mission.
The icebreaker departed from Shanghai on November 2, 2018. While traveling about 30,000 nautical miles, crew members of the expedition withstood the harsh natural environment in Antarctica and overcame various difficulties including colliding with icebergs in January.
Crew members have made a series of research advances during the four-month-long journey, such as the completion of new buildings and supporting facilities in research bases, marine species surveys, underwater robot tests and installation of new radar and solar telescopes.
The completion of the second stage of Taishan Station is one of the most important achievements by researchers, who have established new buildings and systems of power generation, as well as snow melting and sewage treatment under snow. They also made key technological breakthroughs in new energy application for research stations.
The research team acquired a mass of data and samples of marine species in the Antarctic region and discovered that there might be a krill breeding ground in the Amundsen Sea.
During the mission, Snow Eagle 601, China's first fixed-wing aircraft for polar flight, completed detection of an Antarctic ice sheet and obtained important records of the ice core climate.
Researchers also completed the construction of a runway in China's first airfield in Antarctica, which will greatly facilitate the nation's research and expedition on the frozen continent.
Xuelong is the only Chinese polar icebreaker in service. Built in 1993 in Ukraine, Xuelong has been upgraded into a polar research vessel and has supported China's annual expeditions to Antarctica for more than 20 years.
Xuelong 2, China's first domestically built icebreaker, will be put in use this year. Being able to turn quickly, it will have high safety standards and strong ice-breaking abilities.
(Top image: China's research icebreaker Xuelong departs from Shanghai for its 35th Antarctic research mission, November 2, 2018. /VCG Photo)
Source(s): Xinhua News Agency