China’s ice breaker returns after first Arctic rim circumnavigation

Researchers on the ice breaker Xuelong, which means “Snow Dragon”, finally arrived in Shanghai on Tuesday after completing their 83-day rim expedition at the Arctic.

During the expedition, they studied navigation, marine bio-diversity, hydrology, biology, geology, chemistry and pollution around the Arctic, collecting first-hand materials and data for the analysis of the Arctic channels and the local ecological system.

With 96 members on board, the ice breaker traveled over 20,000 nautical miles, including 1,995 nautical miles in the ice zone. The ice breaker departed from an exploration base in Shanghai on July 20.

The journey, China’s eighth Arctic expedition, is a milestone in the country’s polar exploration attempts. It is the country’s first circumnavigation of the Arctic rim. The ice breaker travelled the northwest shipping lane along the Arctic rim for the first time, while the team conducted China’s first survey on the Labrador Sea and Baffin Bay.

To date, Xuelong has transited all three Arctic sea lanes, a breakthrough believed to be useful in promoting commercial utilization of the maritime passageways and accumulating experience for future voyages of Chinese vessels.

The expedition also reflects China’s efforts to promote the construction of the Silk Road through the Arctic Ocean. In July, China proposed building an “Ice Silk Road” between China and Russia, pledging to make joint efforts and utilize maritime passageways.

The Xuelong, built in Ukraine and put into use in 1994, is mainly designed to carry out polar research and transport supplies to China’s research stations. The ship can break ice up to 1.2 meters thick.

Source: Global Times

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