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Riding the waves

(China Daily)

08:41, November 04, 2011

Editor's note: Huang Rong, 36, is chief engineer on Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, the Chinese icebreaker.

I've spent 13 years going on polar expeditions and this year will mark my 28th journey to the Antarctic, as chief engineer of Xuelong.

I used to suffer really bad travel sickness. I got a pounding headache, nausea and was sore all over. But the first time I got on board Xuelong, the sickness seemed to disappear.

There was so much going on I had no time to think about it.

I started my career on the boat as soon as I graduated from college, and it wasn't long before I was experiencing stormy weather. On my first real outing, the boat was drawn into a maelstrom twice and listed 30 degrees from side to side. After that nightmare was over, no more seasickness.

I suppose it's not entirely gone; maybe it just became easier to handle, which is just as well, because on the 27th research expedition to Antarctica, we traveled along the so-called nasty westerlies - 1.5-meter-high waves even in calm weather.

I remember it was 1 am; all of a sudden the vessel started swaying due to engine problems.

People on low bunks were tipped onto the floor and a large table in the conference room that seats about 10 people was flipped upside down. The dormitories, laboratories and storerooms were a total mess.

The Antarctic is a place people will never regret going to, but it's no holiday resort. It's unbelievably beautiful and unbelievably dangerous.

For people who get a chance to visit the place, it can turn into a lifelong career. Not even seasickness can get in the way.

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