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Snow Dragon sets sail for South Pole
By Wang Ying (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-11-18 06:13

Chinese scientists will set sail today from Shanghai for the formidable, iceberg-laden waters of the South Pole to start their 22nd annual research expedition.

More than 120 scientists and marine specialists are expected to travel to Antarctica aboard the Xuelong (Snow Dragon), the polar science research icebreaker.

Chinese scientists will focus on inland research in the Antarctic area this time, said Yang Huigen, deputy director of the Shanghai-based Polar Research Institute of China, and chief scientist with the expedition.

"The journey provides a golden opportunity for Chinese scientists to make deep-sea surveys and inland research in the South Pole," said Yang, who has been to the Arctic four times and to the Antarctica once.

The expedition will last for more than 130 days from November to March next year, the summer season in the South Pole.

"The expedition will mainly focus on three research fields, including the polar area upper atmospheric physics (which looks into problems of stratospheric ozone depletion and global climate change), aerolithology (the science of meteorites) and oceanography," Yang told China Daily yesterday.

One of the major missions on this expedition is the Mount Groves Project, focusing on collecting and researching meteorites in the Mount Groves area, 460 kilometres from China's Zhongshan Station on the coast, Yang said.

During this year's Antarctic trip, Yang will continue his aurora observations and research on the polar area upper atmospheric physics.

The expedition is also part of the preparations to build the country's third permanent research station in the Antarctic region, expected to be in the Dome A area, to get information on the ancient climate.

China now has two research stations in the Antarctica. The first one, the Great Wall Station, was opened in 1985 on King George Island in the South Shetland Islands alongside the Antarctic Peninsula.

The second one, Zhongshan Station, was opened in 1989. It is situated on the Larsemann Hills in Prydz Bay in East Antarctica.

The National Development and Reform Commission has endorsed an ambitious plan to increase the country's polar scientific research, and the research project has been included in China's 11th Five-Year Programme (2006-10).

(China Daily 11/18/2005 page2)

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