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Antarctic expedition in full swing in greeting International Polar Year
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16:22, November 08, 2007

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Director of the Polar Office of the State Oceanic Administration Qu Tanzhou said in an interview that the upcoming Antarctic exploration will focus on three tasks: reconstructing the Antarctic Great Wall and Zhongshan Stations; implementing China's action plan for the International Polar Year; and selecting the construction site for China's inland station.

Selecting site for station in "unreachable pole"

Reporter: In the upcoming Antarctic exploration, scientists will inspect the entirety of Dome A. This is especially noteworthy because China's first research station within inland Dome A will be built.

Qu Tanzhou: Yes. Dome A's sheet of ice creates the tallest icecap in the South Pole. Because of its harsh climate conditions, it has been regarded as "mankind's unreachable pole" by the international community. On January 18, 2005, China's inland icecap expedition team reached Dome A's ice sheet region and began exploring. This scientific expedition was the first of its kind in the history of Antarctic exploration.

First of all, scientists will collect information about the environmental parameters, and gather systematic, accurate and specific data necessary for choosing a site.

Secondly, scientists will study a cross-section of the ice sheet; drill into the ice's core; explore the geophysical environment; and survey the astronomical conditions. These studies will give impetus to related academic disciplines and lend advantages to the research.

This inland team will work for 90 days. According to the action plan, team members will spend 20 days researching the area within and 6,000 square km around Dome A base camp; and will leave the South Pole by the end of January 2008.

Reporter: Can you name a few specific inspection tasks?

Qu Exploration Zhou: One of them is called "ice radar exploration," which is also a main task of China's "Panda" Act during the International Polar Year. The expedition team will draw a high-precision 3-D topographical map of the area below the ice to provide detailed data for site selection. Meanwhile, we can locate ice that is more than 1.5 million years old in Dome A; and decide the best location for drilling into the ice's core.

Scientists will use a pulse compression radar system, which has a penetrating power of over 3,500 meters of ice and four polar antennae. In order to penetrate 1,400 km of ice, scientists will need at least 30 barrels of oil.

Drawing the 1:50000 topographic map of Dome A is also an important task. The dimensions of the map are 15 km x 30 km. It can provide sufficient and reliable information for site selection.

In addition, scientists will use an earthquake observation system within the Dome A region to record seismic activity in the surrounding area.

Reporter: It must be very difficult or even risky to conduct these activities in such an "unreachable area."

Qu Tanzhou: In that environment, scientific research has its share of mishaps. We have already created security measures and contingency plans. For instance, the expedition team members will contact Zhongshan Station once per day. If conditions make this impossible, then the mission will be suspended and all staff will return to the camp so as to ensure their safety.

"PANDA Plan" focuses on ecological and environmental themes

Reporter: Would you please tell us something about the "PANDA Plan"?

Qu Tanzhou: The core of China's action plan for the International Polar Year, "PANDA," stands for "Prydz Bay-Amery Ice Shelf-Lambert Basin-Dome A: cross-sectional scientific investigation and research programs." The study is divided into two periods: summer and winter. Including the research and study of Dome A's inland ice, scientists must complete 37 tasks – 29 of which are related to the International Polar Year.

Most of these tasks focus on ecological and environmental themes and are closely related to global climate change. For example, scientists are studying the ecological environment of the Antarctic Great Wall Station District; surveying the biodiversity of the Antarctic Fildes Peninsula; and studying the ecological evolution within the Zhongshan Station area. Because the polar ecosystem is extremely sensitive to climate change, it has become a suitable experimental subject for tracking, monitoring and studying the impact of regional and global climate change.

Reporter: Does the extreme Antarctic environment provide direction and conditions for our scientific research?

Qu Tanzhou: Indeed. We will carry out comparative studies on physiological and psychological adaptation, a dietary nutrition survey, and nutrition intervention studies with targeted members.

The Great Wall Station is located outside the Antarctic Circle. Zhongshan Station lies within the Antarctic Circle. Dome A sits within a complex environment: 4,000 meters above sea level, with hypoxic conditions, extreme cold and strong ultraviolet (UV) rays. By monitoring and recording the physical and psychological conditions of team members, we can obtain important first-hand data.

These research results are quite valuable for physiology research and studies within unique polar environments; and can also be used in studies of aerospace, high-altitude and modern, social psychological health. To that end, researchers will measure both physical and psychological factors in different situations: before initial departure, upon arrival in Zhongshan Station, upon arrival in Dome A, after returning to Zhongshan Station and after returning to China.

In addition, one of the research tasks is to study the application of a polar robot system. Scientists will test the key technology under extreme circumstances; and, from their observations, will lay the foundation for practical application of the robot system in the near future.

Reporter: One important task is to reconstruct the Great Wall and Zhongshan Station, isn't it?

Qu Tanzhou: The reconstruction of the Great Wall Station is a key task this year. The Great Wall Station was built in 1985 and has exceeded its design's life span. For various reasons, the station can no longer meet its application requirements. As a result, we need to dismantle, improve and reconstruct parts of the existing station. Between the summers of 2007 and 2008, we will complete the construction of over 900 square meters of scientific research centers, more than 600 square meters of comprehensive centers, and a long-distance communication network system. At the same time, we will also take aerial photographs of the 200 square kilometers of land around the Great Wall Station.

Zhongshan Station was built in 1989. During the upcoming Antarctic exploration, scientists will dismantle current research units and complete comprehensive research units. The entire project involves 11 single units and covers a construction area of 985.6 square meters. Meanwhile, the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping will draw 1:500 scale digital maps of the 2km area surrounding Zhongshan Station.

By People's Daily Online

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