China launched its 33rd expedition to Antarctica as its research vessel and icebreaker Xuelong (Snow Dragon) left Shanghai today on a 161-day voyage to build a new base on the white continent. A 256-member team has embarked on their trip of 31,000 nautical miles, Sun Bo, deputy director of the Polar Research Institute of China, who leads the team said.
They will visit the Zhongshan, Kunlun, Taishan and Changcheng stations, performing various research tasks. The team will also carry out environmental clean-up around the stations. It is scheduled to return to Shanghai on April 11 next year.
The expedition has a list of 72 tasks to perform including preliminary site selection for China’s new base on the Ross Sea and work on fixed-wing aircraft, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Xuelong will arrive at the Zhongshan station in eastern Antarctica in early December. After unloading at Zhongshan, Kunlun, and Taishan stations, the ship heads to Chile to resupply. In late January it will survey the Ross Sea, returning to the Zhongshan station in late February before departing home early March. China currently has built four Antarctic research stations – Taishan, Great Wall, Zhongshan and Kunlun.