China’s ice breaker sets sail for Arctic rim expedition

China’s ice breaker Xuelong (Snow Dragon) set sail on Thursday from an exploration base in Shanghai for the country’s first circumnavigation of the Arctic rim, Xinhua News reported.

Xinhuanet quoted Lin Shanqing, deputy director of the State Oceanic Administration, saying that the expedition is another milestone in the country’s polar exploration efforts. “Usually, Arctic expeditions are carried out once every two years. Starting this year, we plan to increase the frequency of expeditions,” said Lin.

The journey marks China’s eighth Arctic expedition and the ship, with a crew complement of 96, will travel 20,000 nautical miles in 83 days.

Captain of the vessel, Shen Quan, said that the Snow Dragon will travel the northwest shipping lane along the Arctic rim for the first time. The route has more ice than the northeast shipping lane. Researchers will study navigation, marine bio-diversity, hydrology, biology, geology, chemistry and pollution around the Arctic.

The report stated that China has focused on cooperation and sharing information in polar research. The Chinese National Arctic and Antarctic Data Center has provided data for more than 100 international projects and more than 10 countries, the report noted.

MV Xuelong:

Xue Long (simplified Chinese: 雪龙; traditional Chinese: 雪龍; pinyin: Xuě Lóng; literally: “Snow Dragon”) is a Chinese icebreaking research vessel.

Built in 1993 at Kherson Shipyard in Ukraine, she was converted from an Arctic cargo ship to a polar research and re-supply vessel by Hudong-Zhonghua Shipbuilding of Shanghai by the mid-90s. The vessel was extensively upgraded in 2007 and was expected to go through another upgrade in 2013, but it is not known if the latter refit was carried out.

The vessel can break ice up to 1.2 meters thick.

As of 2012, Xue Long is the only Chinese icebreaking research ship in service. A second Chinese polar icebreaker, slightly smaller but more capable than Xue Long, is currently at the design stage and is expected to enter service in 2016.

Source: Xinhua News

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