Antarctic team halfway to peak
China's 21st Antarctic expedition, the Kunlun Dome A Inland Icecap Expedition has made it halfway to its goal.
After setting out on December 14, the expedition team has covered a distance of 640 kilometres, on its planned trip towards Dome A, the highest icecap in Antarctica.
Wang Zipan, a team scientist,told Xinhua the group has passed a region of steep slopes adjacent to the coast, the most dangerous section of the first part of the journey due to dense crevasses.
The team is now headed southward along a line 77 degrees east longitude.
The team has set up signs every two kilometres and a special sign post using empty gasoline drums every 10 kilometres. Radio relay stations are being left along the way.
According to the plan, the expedition team of 10 Chinese scientists and two journalists are making the 1,300 kilometres inland from the Zhongshan Station on the southeast coast of the Antarctica towards Dome A. The expedition is expected to be finished in 70 days.
With a height of 4,083 metres above sea level, Dome A is the highest icecap in the South Pole. It is also the farthest dome inland away from the coast. With a brutal climate and a ticklish reputation, Dome A is known as one of the world's most inaccessible places.
Chinese scientists plan to conduct a variety of scientific experiments on its peak,including collecting ice samples. A temporary weather observatory is also expected to be built.
"Dome A is crucial point on the South Pole. No systematic scientific research has been done by any countries at Dome A before. To climb up the peak of Dome A and do scientific research there will bring a breakthrough in human being's polar venture," said Wei Wenliang, a Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration official.
The project is part of preparation to build a permanent research station in inland Antarctica, planned for China's Eleventh Five-Year Plan (2006-10).
China has already built two permanent research stations in the Antarctica, the Great Wall Station on the King George in 1985 and the Zhongshan Station on the southeast coast of the Antarctica in 1989. But neither of them is located in the inland South Pole.
The 21st Antarctic Expedition set out on October 25 from Shanghai, China's largest port.
Xuelong, a polar science research ice-breaking ship capable of piloting the polar seas, carried the 146 expedition members to the Zhongshan Station on November 29.
It then arrived at the Great Wall Station on December 25.
China's Antarctic explorations have produced results in the fields of polar glaciology, upper atmospheric physics, bio-ecology and physical oceanography.