Two Chinese icebreakers and a container ship set off for Antarctica on November 1, 2023 with more than 460 people on board for their 40th Antarctic expedition. The fleet’s destination is Inexpressible Island in the Ross Sea. The task is to complete the construction of China’s fifth station. This is the first time that China’s scientific research mission in Antarctica has been carried out by three ships.
Work on China’s first transmitter in the Pacific sector began in 2018. It is to be used to study the environment in the region, as Chinese state television reported. The facility is expected to include an observatory with a satellite ground station to help China close the large access gap to the continent.
The station’s position could also make it possible to collect signals from Australia and New Zealand, which are allied with the USA, and to collect telemetry data on rocket launches from both countries’ newly established space facilities. However, China China rejects allegations that its stations are used for espionage purposes.
The research icebreakers Xuelong and Xuelong 2, or Snow Dragon and Snow Dragon 2, departed from Shanghai, while the cargo ship Tian Hui departed from Zhangjiagang in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu.
Part of the team of over 460 people will study the effects of climate change on the Antarctic ecosystem, as well as the role of Antarctica in climate change. They will collaborate with Norwegian and Australian colleagues on cutting-edge research projects. The mission is expected to last five months.
As part of this expedition, a new scientific research station will be built along the coastal areas of the Ross Sea. From 1985 to 2014, China has built four research stations in Antarctica. China’s fifth research station on the continent will be the third permanently manned station.
The design of the station building is inspired by the Crux constellation, which served as a guide for the Chinese sailor Zheng He on his voyages. With a floor area of 5,244 square meters, the station offers space for 80 expedition team members in summer and 30 in winter.
Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal