Icebreaker's voyage raises bar for polar exploration

By Zhao Lei | China Daily | Updated: 2019-10-22 07:47
Xuelong 2 is 122.5 meters long, 22.3 meters wide and has a displacement of 13,996 metric tons. [Photo/Xinhua]

The official said Xuelong 2 is one of the world's best research icebreakers and will allow Chinese scientists to extend their stays in polar regions and help the country narrow the gap with polar research powers such as the United States.

Sun Bo, deputy director of the Polar Research Institute of China in Shanghai, said, "The participation of Xuelong 2 will make the 36th Antarctic expedition China's first polar mission carried out by two icebreakers and also an expedition performed at the highest technological level."

Zhao Yanping, the captain of Xuelong 2, said: "The vessel employs a lot of technology and functions the Xuelong does not have. Its service will extensively boost our country's research capability in polar regions."

He said that to prepare for the Antarctic mission, Xuelong 2 underwent a trial run in the South China Sea in August to test its equipment.

The vessel arrived in Shenzhen on Oct 13 from its home port of Shanghai and was open to 1,200 members of the public for tours before its departure.

Before Xuelong 2 was commissioned in July, China only operated a single icebreaker-Xuelong-which was designed for cargo transportation rather than scientific research operations when it was built in Ukraine in 1993. Xuelong was bought by China and converted into a polar research and resupply vessel. It has carried out dozens of scientific expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic.

Xuelong 2 was jointly designed by Aker Arctic Technology in Helsinki, capital of Finland, and the Marine Design and Research Institute in Shanghai. Construction began at the Jiangnan Shipyard Group in Shanghai in 2016.

The vessel is 122.5 meters long, 22.3 meters wide and has a displacement of 13,996 metric tons. With a maximum speed of 15 knots, or 27.8 kilometers per hour, it can sail more than 37,000 km in a single voyage and carry out 60-day expeditions with 90 crew members and researchers.

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