China to build 3rd station in Antarctica
China plans to invest some 500 million yuan (about $60 million) to improve Polar research facilities in the next three years to prepare for the building of a third station on Antarctica, according to an official with the Polar Research Office of the State Oceanic Administration.
The projects on the agenda include rebuilding the two existing scientific research stations in South Pole, the Changcheng Great Wall Station and the Zhongshan (Dr. Sun Yat-sen) Station, restructuring China's polar expedition ship Xuelong (Snow Dragon) and upgrading the China Polar Research Center in Shanghai.
"All these measures will set a strong foundation for the construction of the third research station on Antarctica during the 11th five-year-plan period (2006-2010)," said Wei Wenliang, head of the office.
According to the plan, China's third research station on Antarctica will be built at the highest point of the Polar icecap, which peaks 4,300 meters above sea level, a point known as Doma A. This will a be the first research station in the inland area of Antarctica, acknowledged Wei.
Changcheng Station was founded in 1985 and the Zhongshan Station in 1989, both within the outer region of Antarctica coastline. Wei said that because of technological limitations in the 1980s, the construction material for the two stations was not satisfactory and parts of the building has been corroded.
All buildings in the two stations will be rebuilt except one or two ones left for commemoration.
The reconstruction of Xuelong is expected to be launched in May or June next year and will be completed by August 2006. After the rebuilding, Xuelong will have an increased laboratory area of 300 square meters, and its capacity for scientific research, automation safety and living conditions will all be greatly improved. By then, the ship could meet the demand of research in another 10-15 years.
Currently, noted Wei, the preparation for Xuelong's restructuring is smoothly underway.
Wei also said China will launch its 21st Antarctic expedition on Oct. 25 this year, targeting the Doma A for the first time. During the 150-day expedition, a team of 12 scientists and journalists will set up climate observation and environment monitoring equipment on the Dome A for collecting first-hand information for the building of the new station.
Since China inaugurated its first Antarctic research station, Changcheng, about two decades ago, the country has launched an Antarctic expedition every year.
During the past 20 years, China has invested a total of 900 million yuan (some 110 million US dollars) in the South Pole Research and achieved great progress in polar climate and weather, glaciers, bio-resources, oceanic chemistry and physics, especially in the field of polar aerolite, where China's research level ranks with the United States and Japan.
Currently, 47 countries have signed the Antarctic Treaty and 28 have set up research stations on the Antarctica. Countries that want to build research stations in the region must pass strict environmental protection check.