Members of the Chinese scientific expedition team get off the icebreaker “Xuelong”, meaning Snow Dragon in English, in Shanghai, east China, April 12, 2016. The team returned to Shanghai on April 12, concluding the country’s 32nd scientific expedition to Antarctica. The icebreaker, carrying a 277-member expedition team, covered about 30,000 nautical miles in the 158-day expedition.[Photo/Xinhua]
Shanghai — Chinese scientists wrapped up their 32nd scientific expedition to Antarctica on April 12 as the country’s icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, returned to Shanghai.
The 158-day expedition started on Nov 7. Xuelong covered about 30,000 nautical miles carrying 277 scientists from more than 80 research institutions.
During the mission, China’s first fixed-wing aircraft for polar flight, Snow Eagle 601, completed 47 flights totalling 264 hours and nearly 80,000 km, said Sun Bo, deputy director of the Polar Research Institute of China and deputy head of the team.
The aircraft conducted airborne remote sensing and transport tasks. China will develop a fleet of such fixed-wing aircraft and it will need to set up a professional Antarctic aviation team, Sun said.
The expedition team conducted marine environmental assessment in waters around the Antarctic Peninsula. They confirmed earlier speculation about the South Pole being home the world’s largest canyon and found many subglacial lakes and currents connected to the canyon, forming a giant “wetland” beneath the Antarctic ice.
They also collected 630 pieces of meteorite. China now has more than 12,000 pieces of meteorite, trailing behind only Japan and the United States.
33 members of the team remain in the Changcheng and Zhongshan stations in Antarctica for further research.