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April 11, 2010

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Polar vessel open for Expo visitors

CHINA'S only icebreaker, Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, will be open to the public for free between June 5 and 12 as an extra attraction in collaboration with World Expo Shanghai 2010 authorities.

Details about the number of people allowed to visit every day and how to register to visit are still under discussion, said officials from the Polar Research Institute of China yesterday in Shanghai on the arrival home of the nation's 26th Antarctic expedition.

"We will also give lectures and outline Xuelong's and China's polar research achievements during the one-week program," said Qin Weijia, vice director of the institute.

"Visitors should come to Xuelong's base in Waigaoqiao port," Qin said.

"We had planned to sail it to a port closer to the Expo zone but it was not suitable for Xuelong."

The institute will also cooperate with Shanghai Science and Technology Museum in a polar research exhibition, showing some samples scientists brought back from the 26th Antarctic expedition.

Officials said the expedition was successful and fruitful.

"We completed 61 scientific research projects, exceeding the planned 58," said Li Yuansheng, vice head of the expedition team.

He said the most meaningful tasks included digging a 133-meter ice core at Dome A, the highest point on the continent at 4,093 meters above sea level, and collecting 1,618 meteorites at the Grove Mountains, an important nunatak region, or rocky area free of snow and ice on the East Antarctic Glacier.

"Ice cores contain climate information and the deepest at Dome A give information over a million years," Li said.

"It was the first time we took ice cores there. This 133-meter core contains climate information for 5,000 to 6,000 years. We expect to get the deeper cores in four to five years."

Leaving Shanghai on October 11, the crew consisting of 249 scientists, including 12 women, conducted major research projects on remote sensing, glaciology, biology and aerophysics.


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