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China Breakthroughs: Cruising around the world for maritime research

Editor: Qian Ding 丨CCTV.com

08-30-2017 16:06 BJT

By Tom McGregor, CCTV.com Panview commentator and editor

The deep seas appear to be our final frontier on earth. Nearly all land had been tracked on-foot. Meanwhile, large swathes of the oceans remain untapped, while it's understood that plenty of natural resources can be found there, such as new fishing grounds, offshore oil & gas, along with an abundance of minerals on the ocean’s floor.

Accordingly, the timing seems suitable for Chinese maritime scientists to set forth on their first sea mission that journeys around the world.

Full-speed ahead

Beijing Review magazine reports that China's elite science ship, Xiangyanghong 01, has set off from eastern China's Qingdao on Aug. 28, 2017 to embark on an eight-month expedition.

(Xiangyanghong 01 sets off for China's first maritime research mission that journeys around the world in an eight-month expedition. Photo from Chinanews.com)

It's China's first maritime research mission that would integrate oceanic and polar research. Led by the State Oceanic Administration (SOA), the team’s research will focus on natural resources exploration, as well as making deeper observations on the environmental and climate change impact.

Much of the research will be conducted in the Southern Hemisphere, particularly in Antarctica, according to Li Tiegang, a major researcher at SOA.

To reach Antarctica, China's heavy-duty ice-breaker ship - Xue Long ("Snow Dragon") will be deployed for China's 34th mission to the continent.

The sea route will cover 35,000 sea miles on a 260-day journey, scheduled for return to Qingdao on May 15, 2018.

South Pole camping

Chinese scientists have held a strong presence in Antarctica in recent years, despite the country's late start, compared with other countries.

Beijing has built station bases to conduct research on the climate, topography and animal species inhabiting the land. Deep-Sea submersibles have also been sent to explore the bottom of the sea.

China's first four stations are named: Great Wall, Zhongshan, Kunlun and Taishan. The Taishan Camp has been used for the South Pole's summer - December to March.

In 2013, the then-director of SOA’s Arctic and Antarctic Administration, Qu Tanzhou, was quoted by Scientific American magazine as saying, "As a latecomer to Antarctic research, China is catching up."

Qu added, "Building the Taishan Camp and inspecting sites for the (other) stations can further guarantee that Chinese scientists will conduct research over a wider range and in a safer way."

Ice-breaker fleet expansion

China has more than one heavy-duty icebreaker in its fleet. According to Popular Mechanics magazine, Haibing 722 was commissioned on Jan. 5, 2016 after three years under construction.

Haibing 722 has been deployed for China's Navy Northern Fleet and patrol of Bohai Bay. The icebreaker sets sail at 337-feet(ft.) long and 66-ft. wide, while it can displace 4,860 tons of water and resist Force 12 winds and can travel in a range - 7,000 miles.

The ice-breaker was made in China, but comes equipped with Finnish technologies. It's an unmanned ship with a launching pad that provides landing space for the Changhe Z-8 transport helicopter.

Chinese scientists are eager to explore the South and North poles to gain more insights into climate conditions. Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a speech in 2013, declaring polar exploration as an "important field for development."

Closer look at warmer waters

China's around-the-world research mission will not only explore the frozen polar zones, but engage in in-depth observations of warmer tropical waters as well, including the South China Sea.

Chinese maritime scientists have dedicated much time to explore the South China Sea and have also compiled loads of hydrometeorological data, marine chemical data, along with environmental geological data in the regional waters.

The South China Sea Institute of Oceanography under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province plans to digitize all its research data into a comprehensive database and later publish a series of books to highlight the project.

"The project can compile all our previous work into a system, which will support further research in the South China Sea," Liu Feng, an expert on the South China Sea, told Global Times.

Mission for the ages

Chinese scientists are looking beyond the nation’s border to make discoveries and to conduct research and experiments that could transform the world.

Deep-Sea studies and expeditions to the polar regions can also lead to a better understanding on the real impact of Climate Change, while people can find new ways to adapt to changing weather patterns.

Maritime research and exploration continues to be a mystery for many scientists, but with China's around the world mission, it looks like more deep sea secrets will be unraveled on the horizon.

Will the mission be a success? Well, we will know the answer to that question when Chinese scientists return from their voyage in May 2018.


(The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )

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