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Polar Explorers Scale Dome A Peak

A team of 12 Chinese polar explorers made it to the top of the north peak of Dome A on Sunday, the first team ever to make it to the remote ice mountain by land.


Zhang Zhanhai, leader of the Kunlun Dome A Inland Icecap Expedition, said that he had received a telephone report from Li Yuansheng, the leader of the mission, that the team successfully mounted the north peak at 11:30 PM Beijing time on Sunday.


Preliminary measurement by global positioning system shows that the north peak of Dome A is 4,091 meters above sea level.


According to telemetering data, the South Pole's inland icecap has two peaks, more than 10 kilometers away from each other. Only by measurement from both the satellite and the ground can the explorers determine which one is higher.


After a more exact survey of the north peak, the mission team will set out for the south peak.


Gai Junxian, the mission team's technician, left the team on Saturday because of a strong altitude reaction. He is now receiving treatment at a US research station and is in a stable condition.


The remaining members are all in good condition, said Wei Wenliang, vice director of the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration.


The team plans to stay in the peak area for 10 to 15 days to conduct a variety of experiments, collect ice samples and build a temporary weather observatory to prepare for the construction of a permanent research station in inland Antarctica.


This is the first time that systematic scientific research has been done by any country at Dome A. Located about 1,300 kilometers inland, with a brutal climate and a height of more than 4,000 meters, Dome A is known as one of the world's most inaccessible places.


Meanwhile, the polar expedition ship Xuelong (Snow Dragon) arrived in the southern Argentina port of Ushuaia on Friday. She will remain for three days replenishing supplies before returning to Zhongshan Station, the permanent research station China built in Antarctica in 1989.


The ship left on China's 21st Antarctic expedition on October 25 last year for the 150-day expedition. Most of the team's tasks have now been completed, and it is expected to return to China in March.


With the conclusion of the expedition, the Xuelong will be docked for a complete makeover beginning in May or June. Her refitting is scheduled to be completed by August 2006.


When she emerges, the Xuelong's research, safety and living conditions will all be substantially improved, with her laboratory area expanded to 300 square meters.

(China Daily, China.org.cn January 11, 2005)

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