China has opened its fourth Antarctic research base - Taishan station - the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) announced on Saturday.
Taishan station is located at 76 degrees 58 minutes east longitude and 73 degrees 51 minutes south latitude on the East Antarctic inland ice sheet at an altitude of 2,621 meters.
The site is between two existing Chinese stations, Zhongshan and Kunlun stations. The yearly average temperature there is about minus 36.6 degrees Celsius.
President Xi Jinping congratulated the research base in a letter, saying that scientific research in the Antarctic is important for the exploration of nature and the development of mankind.
The station was built by China's 30th Antarctic Scientific Expedition. 28 researchers completed it over 53 days.
The floor area of Taishan Station is 1,000 square meters. The main building covers 410 square meters and is assembled with modularized light metal materials. Built on stilts, it looks like a Chinese traditional lantern. It can accommodate up to 20 people during the Antarctic summer, and is projected to have a lifespan of 15 years.
Relay station between Kunlun Station and Zhongshan Station
Qu Tanzhou, head of the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration under the SOA, said that as a junction center station, Taishan station, equipped with garages, airports and oil storage facilities can be used for scientific observation, accommodation, power generation, storage, machinery maintenance, communications, and emergency shelter. Among China's four Antarctic research bases, Zhongshan and Changcheng are permanent, while Kunlun will become a permanent station. At that point Taishan will be the only summer base.
Qu explained that Zhongshan Station and Changcheng Station are remote from Kunlun Station, located at Dome-A, creating inconvenience for cargo transportation. As a junction center station, Taishan, 522 kilometers from Zhongshan and 600 kilometers from Kunlun, will play a crucial role in supporting scientific research into the Antarctic inland ice sheet. Also of importance will be further study of the changes in the Antarctic climate and its glaciers, and remote sensing of the Antarctic.
First use of fixed-wing aircraft
Qu Tanzhou also said that aircraft have never been used by the Antarctic research bases. Only vehicles can be used for transport from Zhongshan Station to Kunlun Station, which is time-wasting and dangerous because of weather variations at altitudes ranging from zero to 4,000 meters, and complex ice road conditions. Taishan Station is equipped with a runway for fixed-wing aircraft. The use of aircraft makes it possible to complete the round trip between Zhongshan Station and Kunlun Station in one day, which can enormously enhance the efficiency of transport in case of illness or other emergencies.
Taishan Station not only adds to the total number of our Antarctic research bases, but also extends the coverage area of our Antarctic scientific exploration and makes Grove Mountains accessible.
First installation of a shower in a summer station
"Taking a bath is a luxury in a research base because the facilities are expensive to install and maintain," said Qu Tanyu. "When researchers work at Kunlun Station, they go without a bath for 60 days.” Taishan Station was equipped with shower facilities because it is a junction base where researchers returning from Kunlun Station can start to recuperate.
Living room lights can simulate diurnal variation.
There are three stories in the main building of Taishan Station with the first floor for facility storage, the second for daily life, and the third for academic use. LED lights in the living room on the second floor can simulate diurnal variation in order to help researchers adjust to the polar day in the Antarctic summer.
The living room is surrounded by bathrooms and dormitories where there are four bunk beds and a desk. Beside the door is a waist-high heating system, which can provide more efffective heating than ceiling-mounted equipment.
Circular structure can prevent snow accumulation.
Designers said Taishan Station looked like a Chinese lantern while many netizens christened it a UFO in a world of snow.
Qu said that Taishan's circular structure will help prevent the accumulation of snow around the station during winter when gales are common in inland areas on the continent.