Chinese scientists head for highest icecap in Antarctica

Updated: 2007-12-23 09:00

ZHONGSHAN STATION, Antarctica - A 17-member Chinese Antarctic expedition team set off on Saturday for Dome A, the highest polar icecap peak at an elevation of 4,093 meters.

This is the 24th Antarctic expedition conducted by Chinese scientists and their second attempt to survey the peak of Dome A after they made the first ever successful ascent by mankind on Jan. 18, 2005.

Seventeen members of Chinese Antarctic exploration team pose for group photos in Antarctic on Dec. 22, 2007, before leaving for inner Antarctic. Their destination is the peak of the Antarctic icecap which is at an altitude of 4,093 meters. [Xinhua]

Dome A, located in 80 degrees 22 minutes south latitude, 77 degrees 22 minutes east longitude, is the highest area of the Antarctica inland icecap, and is generally recognized as the vantage point for scientific research in Antarctica.

The 17 Chinese scientists, chosen through nationwide competition, will travel 1,300 kilometers into the inland icecap during their 70-day expedition. They will be climbing the peak of Dome A from the edge which is over 200 meters above the sea level and conduct a series of scientific surveys to pave the way for setting up the third Chinese scientific research station in Antarctica.

They will carry out eight field surveys, including the comprehensive expedition on glaciology, geophysics, astronomy, topography and meteorology.

The scientists will also conduct surveys on drilling position of the deep ice core at Dome-A and choosing the location for an observation station in the inland region of Antarctica.

It is also the first time for the Chinese expedition team to conduct a series of new researches, including choosing the locus of the astronomical observatory at Dome-A, installing wireless sensor network at Dome-A, conducting earthquake observation in the inland icecap, drafting a topographic chart with the scale of 1:50000 and carrying out physiological and psychological researches on expedition team members.

Meanwhile, the Chinese expedition will implement the core of China's action plan for the International Polar Year, PANDA.

China has so far built two research stations in Antarctica. The Great-Wall Station, founded in February 1985, is located south of King George Island, and Zhongshan Station, built in February 1989,is located south of Prydz Bay on the Mirror Peninsula, eastern of Larsemann Hills.

The mountain range Gamburtsev blanketed by the Dome A Icecap has been considered the most likely place to find new mechanism of orogeny and to give birth to new theory on the continental structure.

Its unique dome is believed the most ideal place for the research on the formation and evolution of Antarctic icecaps and the best place to get the oldest ice core.

Furthermore, the Dome A Icecap is theoretically the best place in Antarctica for setting up an observatory. It will be of great significance for the research on the global climate change to conduct long-term scientific observation in the Dome A Icecap.

Over the past 12 years, China has carried out five scientific expeditions in the hinterland of Antarctica.

In 1996, Qin Weijia, who led a seven-member scientific expedition team, advanced 300 km into the inland icecap for the first time and successfully conducted a series of scientific expeditions.

On Jan. 18, 2005, a 12-member Chinese expedition team headed by Li Yuansheng reached the Dome-A via icy land, the first ever in human history.


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