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September 30, 2009

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China set to embark on biggest Antarctic mission

A RECORD 260 staff members will join China's 26th expedition to the Antarctic with the biggest amount of research tasks to date.

The experts include three from Taiwan and 12 female scientists.

Two women will take part in an expedition to the inland area to study Grove Mountain, an important nunatak region, or rocky area free of snow and ice on the East Antarctic Glacier.

These two would further study the evolution of the Antarctic land, officials from the Polar Research Institute of China said yesterday.

The big team will take China's sole icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, from its base in Shanghai on October 11 for the 180-day trip, one of its longest missions, and visit China's three stations at the South Pole.

The vessel is due to return to Shanghai on April 10 after finishing about 30 scientific projects on areas around the three stations, 16 research projects in the ocean and another 12 projects to renovate stations.

China has Changcheng Station, Zhongshan Station and the new Kunlun Station in the Antarctic and Huanghe Station in the North Pole.

Kunlun was built in January and is the nation's first station in the Antarctic inland.

It is located on a plateau 1,200 kilometers inland.

After returning from the Antarctic trip, Xuelong will set out for its fourth mission to the Arctic late next year.

Experts said they would closely study "a possible trade route around the Arctic Ocean as climate change is reducing the pack ice in the area."

"Knowledge and data on the North Pole will allow us to make good use of the Arctic Ocean, not only in the area of navigation but also the resources available in the ocean," said Dong Zhaoqian, an institute researcher.


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