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'Snow Dragon' opens to Taiwan visitors
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The Chinese mainland's Antarctic exploration vessel, "Snow Dragon," opened to the Taiwan public Thursday, and is expected to draw 2,000 people over two days.

The Snow Dragon (Xuelong in Chinese) arrived at Kaohsiung Port Wednesday at the invitation of the "National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium," the "National Sun Yat-sen University" and the Cheng Shiu University for cross-Strait polar research exchanges.

Curious visitors crowded the ship, took photos and asked questions to the crew members about the Antarctic.

Visitor Ji Ziyin said she wanted to see the vessel herself after reading about it in the newspaper and she wanted to know more about the South Pole.

A marine species major from Taiwan's Dong Hwa University, who would not give his name, said he hoped to do research in the Antarctic aboard the ship one day.

Snow Dragon is carrying 140 members of the mainland's 25th Antarctic scientific expedition team. It is expected to return to Shanghai on April 10.

The ship left in October for a 173-day trip, the longest in China's polar expedition history.

Yang Huigen, head of the expedition team, said the four-day stop in Kaohsiung was an "ice-breaking journey" for cross-Strait polar scientific exchanges.

Wang Wei-shean, curator of the "National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium," said the ship's visit would raise awareness of ecological protection.

The expedition team successfully erected a new research station at Dome Argus (Dome A), the pole's highest icecap, which is 4,093 meters above sea level.

The station will help expand their research space from the coast to inland areas, said Sun Zhihui, director of the State Oceanic Administration.

It is China's third station in Antarctica after the Changcheng Station and Zhongshan Station.

The ship left the Zhongshan Station for home on March 9. It stopped in Fremantle, Australia, on March 22 to refuel.

China launched its first expedition to Antarctica in 1984.

(Xinhua News Agency April 3, 2009)

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