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China’s Xuelong-2 icebreaker completes oceanic survey in Antarctica

ISLAMABAD (PEN) : China’s research icebreaker Xuelong-2, or Snow Dragon-2, concluded a comprehensive cross-section ocean survey and investigative tasks in the Amundsen Sea and surrounding areas on Monday.

The icebreaker set off for the country’s 40th Antarctic expedition on December 28, 2023. Since then, the expedition team has conducted comprehensive multidisciplinary investigations, including hydrological, atmospheric, sea ice, marine biology, ocean chemistry studies, and land-based survey missions to investigate penguin habitats.

“The comprehensive multidisciplinary investigations have further deepened the understanding of the ecosystem of the Amundsen Sea, especially the polynyas and its response to global climate change,” said Wang Jinhui, deputy leader of the expedition team.

The investigations found that the productivity of the polynyas is very high, and the Antarctic large krill, a commercial fishing species, is mainly distributed outside the polynyas, according to Wang, adding that the results have important scientific significance to clarifying the mechanism of high productivity and low output efficiency in this region.

The expedition team did trophic level construction in the Amundsen Sea system for the first time, obtaining abundant samples of biological species, which provide scientific reference for constructing the Amundsen Sea food web and exploring the key species in the nutritional relationship.

Researchers deploy submergible buoys during the expedition, January 6, 2024. /CFP

Researchers deploy submergible buoys during the expedition, January 6, 2024. /CFP

One notable achievement of this mission was establishing a submergible buoy array in the western shelf region of the Amundsen Sea. Four sets of buoys were deployed during this expedition, marking China’s inaugural deployment of ecological submergible buoys in the polar areas and enabling long-term observations of krill and environmental parameters.

The Xuelong-2 will head to the Lyttelton Port in New Zealand for its third visit during the expedition. While in port, the icebreaker will rotate personnel, replenish supplies and hold open day activities.