China expands exploration of Antarctica

China 24

It was magic number 34 for a Chinese research ship completing China’s 34th expedition in Antarctica.

Among the payoffs: witnessing first-hand remarkable scenes like a school of about 50 whales swimming nearby.

CGTN’s Frances Kuo reports.

“Our work mainly focuses on the Atlantic section near the Antarctica,” Li Tiegang, leader of the expedition team said. “China knew little about the area in the past, and this expedition fills in the gap.”

Meantime, China is starting to build its fifth research station on the continent – not an easy task.

“You see there, there’s no snow on the rocks over there, which means the wind is strong over there,” said Zhang Yi, of Tsinghua University’s Polar Building Center.  ”We’ve chosen a site where the wind weakens, with little or no accumulation of snow.”

The station is on Antarctica’s southernmost waters that are accessible to ships.

Scientists said it’s a natural lab to study climate change.

“We will conduct research of the upper atmosphere, atmospheric sciences, geology, glaciers and oceans. It is particularly a good place for the study of oceanography, as there is a perennial ice lake on the Island, where we can make continuous marine science observation,” said Yang Huigen, Chief Scientist of China’s 34th Antarctic Expedition.

The hope is to complete the station within the next five years, providing year-round support for researchers.

Ultimately, the mission is to establish an observation and monitoring network. Steering that mission is a Chinese-developed ice rover which tested successfully in Antarctica.

It was able to maneuver over 200 kilometers of tricky terrain and probe 100 meters beneath the ice cap to explore potential expedition routes.

Even from their relatively isolated corner, the researchers’ work is accessible in real-time.

They recently conducted a live public lecture to students at primary and secondary schools in eastern China, piquing interest about this remote part of the world.

“I learned lots of knowledge that I may not get from books,” said Zhu Sijia, a high school student.  “The geological structure and marine life of the Antarctica are not available at our ordinary classes, which broadened my horizon and helped me understand what I did not know before.”

That enthusiasm is driving some Chinese to see it for themselves.

China is the second largest source of visitors to the continent.

The government just established new rules for tourists to minimize their impact on the environment.

Beijing is encouraged by the increased fascination with Antarctica, something it hopes to build upon in the future.

Jonathan Harrington on China’s expanding Antartic expedition

CGTN’s Elaine Reyes spoke with Jonathan Harrington, a professor of political science at Troy University, about China’s expanding exploration of Antarctica.