China to launch new polar icebreaker in 2013

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Xuelong ("snow dragon") icebreaker. [File photo]

China's new icebreaker will debut in a polar expedition in 2013, an oceanic official said on June 21, 2011.

The new icebreaker is able to research oceanic environment, integrate data for real-time oceanic monitoring, deploy and retrieve detectors, and conduct aerial studies with helicopters, Chen Lianzeng, deputy director of the State Oceanic Administration, told a national conference on polar research.

By 2013, the new icebreaker and Xuelong ("Snow Dragon"), an icebreaker that operates in Antarctica, will operate concurrently at both the north and south poles.

The two icebreakers will conduct expeditions in polar regions for more than 200 days annually, Chen said.

A fixed-wing aircraft will also be included in the expedition before 2015. It will transport researchers between China's Zhongshan and Kunlun research stations and the Grove Mountains at Antarctica.

China has built three Antarctic stations -- Changcheng (Great Wall), Zhongshan and Kunlun -- and one Arctic station -- Huanghe (Yellow River) Station.

The Kunlun station was China’s first research station on inland Antarctica. It was put into use in early 2009. The Zhongshan station, set up in 1989, now serves as a supply base for the Kunlun station.

Since the early 1980s, China has sent 27 Antarctic expedition teams and completed four research missions to the Arctic Ocean.

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