China's Antarctic ice breaker Snow Dragon returned to Zhongshan Station on Antarctica Saturday after a 15-day transportation mission and started unloading supplies.
The Snow Dragon, or Xuelong, which left China's Changcheng (Great Wall) Station on the southern tip of King George Island on Feb. 9, has been on an arduous transportation mission to bring supplies for Zhongshan Station, which is located south of Prydz Bay on the Mirror Peninsula, east of the Larsemann Hills.
The crew members are scheduled to unload more than 1,000 tons of supplies and 400 tons of oil from the exploration ship in one week.
Due to the temperature rise on the South Pole, the ice around the station has already thawed and the sea was left with some floating ice and several icebergs, forcing the crew to choose to unload the supplies with boats.
On her journey, the ice breaker had been twice trailed by strong cyclones and was once forced for a one-day stopover on the mainland's coast to shelter from unfavorable weather conditions.
According to the expedition team, they are scheduled to conduct another scientific research in somewhere more than 200 sea miles away from Zhongshan station.
The trip follows January's 20-day program of scientific research around Dome A, the Antarctic icecap peak at 4,093 meters above sea level.
The researchers, who successfully scaled Dome A for the second time in history on Jan. 12, are members of China's 24th scientific expedition team to Antarctica.
At present, the team's tasks on the continent are drawing to the end and the ice breaker is expected to conclude all its missions early March and set sail for homeland on March 10.
(Xinhua News Agency February 25, 2008)