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China expands research bases in Antarctica

By Wang Qian | China Daily | Updated: 2013-12-19 08:26

China expands research bases in Antarctica

Team members on China's 30th Antarctic expedition arrive at Zhongshan Station on Dec 3 after 27 days at sea. Zhang Jiansong / Xinhua

Building to begin on summer camp, site inspections for another station

China is expanding its presence at the South Pole, with construction workers leaving its Zhongshan Station on Wednesday to build the Taishan summer field camp, the country's fourth Antarctic base.

Site inspections for another research station will also be carried out at Antarctica's Victoria Land during a 155-day expedition launched on Nov 7.

It is China's 30th mission to the continent since 1984.

"As a latecomer to Antarctic scientific research, China is catching up," Qu Tanzhou, director of the State Oceanic Administration's Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration, said in an exclusive interview.

China has built three Antarctic research stations - Great Wall, Zhongshan and Kunlun.

"Building the Taishan camp and inspecting sites for the station can further guarantee that Chinese scientists will conduct scientific research over a wider range and in a safer way," Qu said.

He said that with climate change being a common global concern, the nation's scientists are striving to find answers in Antarctica.

The Taishan camp will be used from December to March and construction of the main building is expected to be completed next year. Construction will take about 40 days.

Located between the Zhongshan and Kunlun stations, the base will provide logistical support, Qu said.

Wang Yong, director of science programs for the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration, said the base will also be used to study geology, glaciers, geomagnetism and atmospheric science.

Liu Shunlin, leader of the country's latest Antarctic expedition, said at a news conference in November that the Taishan camp will be built at Princess Elizabeth Land, 2,621 meters above sea level.

It will provide crucial support for scientific research at the Kunlun Station, 4,087 meters above sea level.

The camp will be about 715 km from the Kunlun Station, China's first and only inland base in Antarctica so far, and about 520 km from the Zhongshan Station.

Qu said, "With the camp built, Antarctic explorers and scientists can relieve altitude sickness and have a place to rest before going to the Kunlun Station."

Near Kunlun Station, the ice will help scientists assess climate change over the past 1.5 million years.

A design released by the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration shows the construction area for the camp will cover about 1,000 square meters. It will house up to 20 people, and the main building will be shaped like a Chinese lantern.

Qu added, "When built, the camp will be a logistics hub for personnel and materials such as oil and equipment, expanding the research range."

The new research station will provide a base for research on bio-ecology and remote satellite sensing, the State Oceanic Administration said.

It will be near the United States' McMurdo Station, Italy's Zucchelli Station and a recently built South Korean station.

"International cooperation is important in Antarctic exploration," Qu said.

Among the 256 crew members, two Thai scientists are taking part in China's 30th Antarctic expedition.

While the nation is expanding its presence in Antarctica, it is also enhancing its scientific research ability, with a new icebreaker to be built and a fixed-wing aircraft to be bought for future polar expeditions.

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