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North Pole Station Due Soon
The nation's first scientific research station for the North Pole will be set up in September during the second ever mission to the area by a team including Chinese scientists.

The station will be located on Svalbard Island, which belongs to Norway. It will be an integral step for China to improve its understanding about how its climate will be impacted upon by changes on the North Pole.

The team will head to the area on Tuesday, it was revealed yesterday at a contract-signing ceremony between Amway -- the financial supporter of the expedition -- and the Polar Research Institute of China. Amway is the world's largest multilevel marketing organization.

Organized by the State Oceanic Administration, a total of 115 people will take part. About 90 experts from China, 16 from the USA, Canada, Japan and Finland and also several reporters will travel aboard the "Snow Dragon" vessel from Dalian of Northeast China's Liaoning Province.

"The aim of the research is to understand how the climatic change of the North Pole affects the global climate, especially that in China," said Zhang Zhanhai, director of the Polar Research Institute of China.

Recent research shows global warming has greatly impacted on the world's atmosphere, oceans and land masses.

The thickness and coverage of the world's ice packs have been decreasing rapidly.

In recent years, the coverage of ice in the Arctic Ocean has decreased by up to 15 percent, meaning it is less than 1.3 meters thick.

Wei Wenliang, an official with State Oceanic Administration, said: "Affected by the global climate, every year there are floods, sand storms and rising sea levels around China."

The expedition and station's foundation will set up a basic observation system to collect first-hand polar research material, Wei said.

During the 74-day-long mission, based on the "Snow Dragon" vessel, experts plan to research the ocean's chemical composition, biology, geography and climate by using several tools like an underwater robot and a helicopter.

China's first exploration station on the South Pole was established in 1984 and there have been 19 expeditions to the area. The first mission to the North Pole was in 1999.

"Because the area in the South Pole does not belong to any country, it is easy to set up station there. Now it has 40 formal stations," Zhang explained.

As land on the North Pole belongs to eight countries, it is more difficult to undertake exploration within another country's territory, Zhang said.

(China Daily July 10, 2003)

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