Chinese research ship Xue Long begins 7th Arctic expedition

Vessel’s 128-strong team to be joined by US and French scientists on the 78-day voyage

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 July, 2016, 2:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 July, 2016, 2:03am

The Chinese research ship Xue Long, or “Snow Dragon”, left a Shanghai port on Monday for the Arctic to carry out the nation’s seventh expedition to the polar ­region.

A large team of scientists would be carrying out research in areas including marine chemistry, ecology, geology, geophysics and sea ice dynamics, Xinhua quoted Xia Limin, an official at the State Oceanic Administration, as saying.

Xia, who is also the leader of the research team, said three scientists – one from the United States and two from France – would also join the 128-member team on the 18,500km journey, which is expected to take 78 days.

The American and French scientists would take part in ocean and environment research, a move Xia said would help “promote peace, stability and sustainable development in the Arctic ­region”.

In addition to areas covered by Xuelong’s previous Arctic expeditions, the ship will also visit the Mendeleyev Ridge in the Arctic Ocean.

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The former Arctic cargo ship, which was built in 1993 at Kherson Shipyard, in Ukraine, measures more than 160 metres long.

It was converted and extensively upgraded into a polar research and resupply vessel in 2007.

It had also been equipped with two helicopters, research support systems and emergency equipment, Xia said.

During the voyage, the team of scientists will set up 82 temporary scientific observation ­stations.

Submerged buoys and radio balloons which have been fitted with GPS will be released to help collect a range of data over the long term.

Sea ice throughout the Arctic region is diminishing by about 13 per cent every decade, altering ocean currents and the environment, according to multiple ­studies.