Antarc­tic ven­ture

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHOU WENTING in Shang­hai zhouwent­ing@chi­

China’s ex­plo­ration to Antarc­tic in­cludes an up­graded air­craft.

China’s an­nual ex­pe­di­tion to Antarc­tica will fea­ture an up­graded Dou­glas DC-3 fixed-wing air­craft and sev­eral un­manned ae­rial ve­hi­cles for the first time this year.

The re­li­able and ver­sa­tile DC-3 — which rev­o­lu­tion­ized air trans­port in the 1930s and 1940s— was up­graded by US-based air­craft re­man­u­fac­turer Basler and is worth more than 90 mil­lion yuan ($13 mil­lion). It left Canada, where it was un­der­go­ing main­te­nance, on Oct 23, said Sun Ti­jun, di­rec­tor of the Po­lar Re­search In­sti­tute of China and a mem­ber of the ex­pe­di­tion’s lead­er­ship team, said at a news brief­ing on Fri­day in Shang­hai.

It will join the Chi­nese ice­breaker Xue­long in Antarc­tica. The ves­sel is set to leave Shang­hai on Nov 2.

“The plane will carry out sci­en­tific ex­per­i­ments and pro­vide lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port,” Sun said. “It will land at Kun­lun Sta­tion, at an al­ti­tude of more than 4,000 me­ters, for a test.”

He said land­ing at such a high al­ti­tude will chal­lenge both the per­for­mance of the air­craft and the phys­i­cal con­di­tion of its crew, as well as test whether the plane is suit­able for ex­tended ob­ser­va­tion and ex­plo­ration of the po­lar re­gion.

“The air­plane, whose wingspan and length are both about 30 me­ters, can act as a mo­bile plat­form for sci­en­tific re­search equip­ment,” Sun said.

In ad­di­tion to the re­built vin­tage DC-3, at least 10 un­manned ae­rial ve­hi­cles of var­i­ous types will be part of this year’s 161-day ex­pe­di­tion, team leader Sun Bo said.

“Their abil­ity to re­act rapidly makes them per­fect for smaller tasks over shorter dis­tances, such as as­sess­ing the ice con­di­tion 1 or 2 kilome­ters ahead,” Sun said.

Dur­ing its trav­els, the ex­pe­di­tion may also se­lect a lo­ca­tion for China’s fifth sci­en­tific re­search sta­tion in Antarc­tica.

“Pos­si­bly it will be at the south­ern­most part of the Ross Sea, where abun­dant ice shelves ex­ist,” said Xu Shi­jie, an­other mem­ber of the lead­er­ship team. “The in­flu­ence of ice on global cli­mate change is a key topic around the world.”

Xu added that “a num­ber of de­vel­oped coun­tries, in­clud­ing the United States, Italy, Ger­many and New Zealand, have set up their sta­tions in the area, so hav­ing a sta­tion there is also a way to es­tab­lish China’s in­flu­ence in Antarc­tic ex­pe­di­tions”.


A DC-3 up­graded by a US firm will sup­port sci­en­tific work by the Chi­nese team.

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