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AGB Xuelong / Snow Dragon

The Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration has the Xuelong icebreaker to make yearly voyage to the Antarctic waters and specially survey to the Arctic Ocean. The ship has annual cruises to the Antarctic region traversing ocean areas and every two years a track to the Antarctic circumnavigates the Antarctic continent.

Xiangyanghong 10 was China's first Antarctic exploration vessel. Built by China primarily for general oceanic investigation, it was used for only one expedition -- to build the Great Wall Station -- because it was not constructed to sail in Antarctic conditions. It is now called Yuanwang 4 and was used to receive satellite signals. China purchased its first ice going vessel, Jidi, from Finland. A supply, transport vessel it could navigate a field of floating ice but was not an icebreaker. Jidi was decommissioned after six years in service.

Xuelong ( pronounced shway-long, for "Snow Dragon" ) was China's first icebreaker, the re-supply vessel and the scientific research platform of the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic research expeditions. It was well equipped with all the advanced systems of self-contained navigation and weather observation which is essential in polar voyages and research expeditions. There are a data processing center, seven laboratories with a total area of 200 square meters and basic operating equipment on board the vessel. It is also provided with three operating boats and a helicopter for transportation and research purposes in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

Xuelong was built at the Kherson Shipyard, Ukraine in 1993. The Xue Long is the sister ship of the Vasiliy Golovnin, described as a Vitus Bering Class icebreaker. China spent 31 million yuan (US$3.7 million) to convert it into a transport ship for Antarctic expeditions. Xuelong replaced Jidi in 1994 and has remained in service ever since. Classified as a A2 class ice breaker (capable of breaking ice 1.2 meters thick), Xue Long was originally conceived for cargo transportation in the Arctic. It was purchased by China shortly after its commissioning and modified slightly to turn it into a polar research vessel.

With a length of 167 meters, a beam of 22.6 meters and a draft of 9 meters with 21,250 tons fully loaded, Xue Long is currently the largest ice-breaker operating in Antarctic waters. It is capable of sailing at 17.9 knots in open water, although its normal speed when fully loaded is closer to 13 knots.

China's first North Pole scientific expedition from July 1 to Sept. 9, 1999, aimed to collect scientific resources on the ecological system in the Arctic waters, and the atmosphere, geology, fishing, and marine environment of the area. China launched its second scientific expedition to the North Pole -- Chinese Arctic Expedition CHINARE Two -- on 15 July 2003 from Dalian, a port city in northeast China's Liaoning Province. The modern icebreaker "Snow Dragon", which had made the Arctic journey in 1999, carried 115 scientists from seven countries, including China, the United States and Finland, to the North Pole for a 74-day research expedition.

In 2007 the vessel was extensively upgraded in order to extend its service by another fifteen years. The old forecastle was removed and replaced by a brand new bridge and accommodations. Laboratory space was extended to 200 m2. New winches were put in for marine research, and it was equipped with brand new control, communication, and navigation systems, so that it now boasts one of the best automation systems of any ice breaker. China's largest polar exploration ship "Xuelong" debuted in Shanghai on November 6, 2007 after more than six months of renovation work. The renovation cost over two hundred million yuan or around 27 million US dollars with major overhauls to the vessel's body, apartments, engine and electricity supply system.

China's third Arctic expedition set sail from Shanghai in July 2008, with plans to study the polar region's distinctive maritime resources and air quality. China's third Arctic expedition boarding the ice-breaker "Xuelong" (Snow Dragon) returned to Shanghai at 2:00 p.m. on September 22, 2008. The ice-breaker reached at 85:25:00 degrees north latitude, breaking the record in China's sailing history.

A written comment by Vice Premier Li Keqiang sent to the conference said the polar research, a magnificent feat of the mankind, has great significance for China's oceanic work and sustainable development. "Over the past two decades, China's polar research made great achievements and became influential globally," Li said. Li encouraged Chinese scientists to actively participate in international exchanges and cooperation, safeguard national interests and contribute to the peaceful use of polar regions.

Since the early 1980s, China has sent 27 Antarctic expedition teams and completed four research missions to the Arctic Ocean. Besides the Xuelong icebreaker, China has built three Antarctic stations -- Changcheng (Great Wall), Zhongshan and Kunlun -- and one Arctic station -- Huanghe (Yellow River) Station. The Kunlun station went into operation in early 2009 as the first Chinese research station on Antarctica's inland. The Zhongshan station, established in 1989, now serves as a supply base for the Kunlun station.

Fixed-wing aircraft will also be added to the expedition team before 2015, allowing researchers to be transported between China's Zhongshan and Kunlun research stations and Antarctica's Grove Mountains.

A paper by Anne-Marie Brady of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, detailed how China's scholarly papers and state-controlled media discuss Antarctica in terms that are "virtually taboo" in the West. "Chinese language polar social science discussions are dominated by debates about resources and how China might gain its share," says the paper, "China's Rise in Antarctica?", in the journal Asian Survey. But to date there is no evidence that China was interested in breaching prohibitions on exploring and exploiting minerals in Antarctica.

Australian maritime authorities say a Russian ship that had been locked in thick Antarctic ice since December 24, 2013 was nearing rescue as the Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon drew close. The Australian Maritime Authority, which is coordinating the rescue, says the Snow Dragon should reach the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalsky by Friday evening. Two other icebreakers are also headed towards the site. The Russian ship, which was carrying 75 people, including crew, scientists and tourists, became trapped when a blizzard's whipping winds pushed sea ice around the vessel, freezing it in place. Officials say the ship was not in danger of sinking and there are ample supplies for the people on board. The ship, which left New Zealand on November 28, was on a mission to recreate the Australian explorer Douglas Mawson's century-old voyage to Antarctica when it became trapped.

By January 02, 2014 all 52 passengers aboard the Russian research ship stuck in ice for over a week in Antarctica were airlifted to safety, after a rescue helicopter from the Xue Long (Snow Dragon) finally was able to land nearby. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said the passengers were evacuated from the Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been stranded since Christmas Eve. The passengers - including scientists, tourists, and journalists - were airlifted 12 at a time to the Australian vessel, which they will now take on a weeks-long journey to land.

Chinese icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, rounded off its second tour around Antarctica on 28 February 2016. The 75-day trip of over 18,000 nautical miles was also the research vessel's first counterclockwise voyage around the ice-covered continent. During the tour, Xuelong, which is on its 32nd expedition mission, made a stopover at the Great Wall Station on the King George Island, China's first Antarctic station on the continent, and revisited Chile's Port of Punta Arenas after 16 years.

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Page last modified: 01-08-2021 14:08:48 ZULU