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Antarctic Team Halfway to Dome
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China's 21st Antarctic expedition, the Kunlun Dome A Inland Icecap Expedition, has made it halfway to its goal.


The expedition team has covered 640 kilometers since setting out from Zhongshan Station, on the coast, on December 14. The team, comprising 10 Chinese scientists and two journalists, is headed toward Dome A, the highest icecap in Antarctica.


Wang Zipan, a team scientist, told Xinhua News Agency that the group has passed a region of steep slopes adjacent to the coast, the most dangerous section of the first part of the journey owing to its many crevasses.


The team is now headed southward along a line 77 degrees east longitude.


The team is setting up signs every two kilometers and a special signpost using empty gasoline drums every 10 kilometers. Radio relay stations are also being left along the way.


The entire journey will cover 1,300 kilometers and is expected to be finished in 70 days.


Standing 4,083 meters above sea level, Dome A is the highest icecap in the South Pole. Also the farthest dome inland from the coast, Dome A is known as one of the world's most inaccessible places.


The scientists plan to collect ice samples and conduct a variety of experiments on the peak. They are also scheduled to erect a temporary weather observatory.


"Dome A is a crucial point on the South Pole. No systematic scientific research has been done by any countries at Dome A before. To climb up the peak of Dome A and conduct research there will be a breakthrough in humankind's polar exploration," said Wei Wenliang, a Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration (CAA) official.


The expedition is part of the preparations to build a permanent research station in the inland area, a project included in China's 11th Five-Year Plan (2006–10).


China has already built two permanent research stations in Antarctica: the Great Wall Station on King George Island in 1985 and Zhongshan Station in 1989.


The 21st Antarctic expedition set out from Shanghai on October 25 aboard the Xuelong (Snow Dragon), a polar science research icebreaker. The 146 expedition members arrived at Zhongshan Station on November 29.


China's previous Antarctic explorations have included research in the fields of polar glaciology, upper atmospheric physics, bioecology and physical oceanography.  

(China Daily December 27, 2004)

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