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Antarctic Explorers Receive Altitude Training in Tibet
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A group of 17 Chinese explorers embarked on a two-week field training program in Tibet on Monday to prepare for a scientific expedition to Antarctica in October.

The course is being held at a training base for mountaineers in Damxung County, 100 kilometers from Tibet's regional capital Lhasa.

"The county has several peaks at an average height of 6,000 to 7,000 meters and its environment is similar to the Antarctic ice sheet in terms of altitude and climate," said Wei Wenliang, an official in charge of polar research at the State Oceanic Administration.

"The same training used to be held on two glaciers in the outback of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region," he said.

The bureau has hired local field equipment experts to provide training on camping and mountaineering.

"The training will test, as well as improve, the explorers' physical and mental fitness, adaptability to the plateau environment, survival skills and team spirit," said Wei.

If they prove their fitness and adaptability to the Himalayan glaciers, the team will be leaving for Antarctica in October to explore icecap peak known as Dome A, 4,039 meters above sea level.

They will be among a 219-member strong team for China's 24th Antarctic expedition, which will conduct 37 scientific research projects and 10 logistic renovation projects, said Wei.

One of their missions will be to fix the site of China's third scientific research station at the South Pole, an observatory at Dome A.

Construction of the new station is part of the country's contribution to International Polar Year (IPY) 2007/2008 which runs from March 1, 2007, to March 1, 2008.

The observatory will be used for scientific research in summer but will eventually be developed into a permanent station capable of accommodating scientific research all year round, said E Dongchen, director of the Chinese Antarctic Center of Surveying and Mapping.

China has built two permanent exploration stations named Changcheng (Great Wall) and Zhongshan.

(Xinhua News Agency August 21, 2007)

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