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Missing out on life's big events

By Xinhua Aboard Xuelong | China Daily | Updated: 2017-02-03 08:08

Missing out on life's big events

Liu Shaojia, third officer on the icebreaker Xuelong, and his wife Xi Junli.[Photo by Rong Qihan And Mu Yu / Xinhua]

China's polar explorers spent Spring Festival away from home

While many in China returned to their hometowns to celebrate the Lunar New Year, the nation's Antarctic explorers had to make do with pictures and videos of their families.

Missing out on big life events is an occupational hazard for polar explorers, due to the length of their expeditions and the remote regions they visit.

The same holds true for the members of China's current 33rd Antarctic expedition - a 161-day trip covering 31,000 nautical miles - some of whom missed, or are about to miss, the births of their children.

Wang Ping, wife of polar researcher Hu Zhengyi, used to think that "going to Antarctica to watch penguins was cool".

But she cried when she saw how the intense ultraviolet radiation on the Earth's southernmost continent had darkened the skin on her husband's face.

"I never thought, after so many days, we would be seeing each other this way," she said, after speaking to him through video chat.

When Hu left for Antarctica on Nov 2, Wang had been pregnant for a couple of months.

"He and I used to cry when I saw him off. But this time, he did not cry - maybe he didn't want me to feel unhappy," she said.

In December, when icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, was passing China's Zhongshan Station in Antarctica, Hu received a message from home - his wife had given birth 50 days earlier than expected.

"It happened all of a sudden," Wang said. "I really needed someone then to be with me and help me. I was all alone during the whole process."

But Hu could not be at the birth, and the only photo he has of his newborn child is the one he uses as the background wallpaper on his smartphone.

"The baby is so small because of the premature birth," he said, while looking at the picture.

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