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Icebreaker starts debut HK visit

By Xi Tianqi and Li Xiang in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-09 00:07
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Xuelong 2, China's first domestically built polar icebreaker, enters the Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, on Monday, starting its five-day visit to the SAR. [Photo by Lyu Xiaowei / Xinhua]

Xuelong 2, China's first domestically built polar icebreaker, kicked off its five-day visit to Hong Kong on Monday, with officials and scientists saying that it will motivate more people in the special administrative region, particularly young people, to join the country's future polar expeditions.

The 13,990-metric-ton floating colossus docked at the Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui on Monday morning, after receiving salutes from vessels, helicopters and double-decker buses. It will welcome visitors on board from Tuesday until Friday for free, and tickets will be allocated online.

Commissioned in 2019, the 122.5-meter icebreaker is the world's first with a dual-directional icebreaking capability.

Accompanying the icebreaker to Hong Kong is a delegation including polar scientists and members of the nation's 40th Antarctic scientific expedition. They will attend a series of conferences, seminars and discussions during their stay, including a meeting with local students at the Hong Kong Science Museum on Wednesday.

The vessel and the delegation were welcomed on Monday morning by Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu and Zheng Yanxiong, director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong SAR.

Speaking at the welcoming ceremony, Lee said it is a valuable opportunity to engage with the nation's top Antarctic explorers, urging Hong Kong's youths to take part in the related events due to be held in the coming few days. He said he hopes the visit would inspire the city's youngsters to get involved in the fields of innovation and technology.

Hong Kong was Xuelong 2's first port of call after the vessel's expedition to Antarctica, which showcases the central government's unwavering attention and care for the SAR, Lee said.

He said Hong Kong can make a greater contribution to the nation's polar research and exploration activities, adding that the visit will also raise people's awareness regarding climate change and environmental protection.

Speaking at the same event, Sun Shuxian, vice-minister of natural resources and director of the State Oceanic Administration, said the visit will deepen Hong Kong people's understanding and awareness of polar expeditions and ignite an interest among the city's youth to explore polar regions.

Sun said he hopes to see Hong Kong scientists taking part in the nation's polar expeditions in the future.

The last time a national polar icebreaker visited Hong Kong was nearly two decades ago, when the vessel Xuelong was warmly welcomed by local residents, Sun recalled.

After a span of 20 years, the country now has the state-of-the-art Xuelong 2 icebreaker, demonstrating the dedicated efforts and unyielding spirit of generations of Chinese workers, Sun said.

Zhang Beichen, the team leader and chief scientist of China's 40th Antarctic expedition, said his team will host in-depth communication on national polar exploration work through various activities in the coming days.

A group of primary and secondary students, led by their teachers, were invited on board Xuelong 2 on Monday.

Lin Fei-wan, a fourth-grader from the SKH Holy Trinity Church Secondary School, expressed a strong interest in how the icebreaker maintains contacts with the inland areas in Antarctica, where he assumed there would be no signal.

During the brief visit, he said he had gained a deeper understanding of the vessel's internal structure, including its engine and other equipment.

Lam Wai-sing, a teacher from Lin's school, said that the students participating in the visit were eager to take this opportunity to learn about the country's development, particularly the communication technology used on the Xuelong 2 in extreme polar environments such as Antarctica.

A free exhibition, featuring the mission and achievements of Xuelong 2, is taking place at the Hong Kong Science Museum until June 26.

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