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China to conduct fifth Arctic expedition en route Northeast Passage

(Xinhua)

16:34, March 12, 2012

BEIJING, March 12 (Xinhua) -- Chinese scientists will conduct their fifth Arctic expedition between July and September this year en route the Northeast Passage, the country's first attempt through the shipping route also known as Northern Sea Route, a top oceanic official said.

The expeditioners will take China's icebreaker "Xuelong," or "Snow Dragon", to carry out scientific research on ocean, atmosphere, sea-ice and marine organism in the Arctic region, said Liu Cigui, director of the State Oceanic Administration.

"At the invitation of the Iceland government, Chinese scientists will visit Iceland aboard the Xuelong icebreaker en route the Northeast Passage so as to enhance exchanges and cooperation between scientists from the two countries," Liu, also a deputy to the National People's Congress, the top legislature, told Xinhua while attending the ongoing parliamentary session in Beijing.

"Should the expedition be carried out as planned, it will also be the first time for China's icebreaker to arrive in the Barents Sea," Liu said.

Previously, China carried out four expeditions to the Arctic respectively in 1999, 2003, 2008 and 2010.

Starting April this year, China will send its scientific researchers in batches to the Yellow River Station in the Svalbard archipelago of Norway for the Arctic research missions, according to Liu.

There are two routes available through the ice-choked Arctic Ocean, the Northwest Passage and the Northeast Passage.

Northwest Passage goes through the cold Arctic waters north of Canada, and the Northeast Passage extends along the northern coast of Russia.

A record-breaking sea-ice melt in the Arctic in 2005 led to the first ever recorded opening of the Northeast Passage.

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