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Antarctica team leaves on Nov 12
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A Chinese research team will leave for Antarctica aboard Xue Long (Snow Dragon) on November 12, and the country's third research station on the icy continent will be completed in two years, polar research experts said yesterday.

Polar Research Institute of China (PRIC) Director Qu Tanzhou said a team of 188 researchers, scientists, professionals and crew members would leave on the Antarctica research mission from Shanghai.

"This is the largest Chinese team for Antarctica after the first one in 1984," he said. The research team will stay there for about 150 days.

Qu said a big team, which will be divided into three groups, is being sent to the continent because a series of challenging tasks have to be completed.

One group will work on projects to renovate the two existing stations of Changcheng (Great Wall) and Zhongshan. The second group will carry out preliminary work on building a third research station on Dome A, the highest plateau on the continent. The third will be engaged in research projects on board Xue Long.

PRIC Deputy Director Qin Weijia said: "It's the largest ever renovation project for the two stations." Work will first start to repair Changcheng Station, built on King George Island on 1,000 square meters in 1985. After renovation, it will occupy 1,700 square meters and will have more modern facilities for research and observation.

"Changcheng's warehouse will be equipped with advanced porting machines after the renovation." Qin said the Zhongshan Station, too, will be expanded from 2,500 square meters to 3,000 square meters, and will have state-of-the-art equipment.

The team's Dome A project leader Sun Bo said: "According to the plan, construction of the third research station in Antarctica will be finished in two years and it is a very challenging job because it will be on Dome A."

Temperatures on the ice sheet's highest plateau drop to - 90 C and it has for long been considered "unapproachable". So the team will first conduct preparatory work such as boiling water and observing the atmosphere.

(China Daily November 7, 2007)

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