China plans first Antarctic airfield to aid exploration

By Catherine Wong Tsoi-lai Source:Global Times Published: 2014-10-29 0:58:07

China is planning to build an airfield in Antarctica, as the government continues to advance its scientific research and exploration projects on the southernmost continent.

The Chinese authorities plan to build a fixed-wing airport near the Antarctic Zhongshan Station on Larsemann Hills in Prydz Bay in East Antarctica, which will assist China's four research stations on the landmass, the Beijing Evening News reported Monday.

Additional details such as the runway's length or capacity have not yet been specified.

Antarctica is politically neutral and does not belong to any nation, although various countries claim sovereignty in certain areas.

China's sole icebreaker Xuelong, Snow Dragon in English, is scheduled to depart Shanghai for Antarctica on Thursday, and will start investigating the suitability of the proposed site for the construction of an airfield after it arrives at Zhongshan Station in mid-December, added the report.

"Air transport will increase transportation efficiency and therefore help to accelerate China's scientific research at the South Pole," Xue Lei, research fellow at Shanghai's Center for Maritime and Polar Studies, told the Global Times.

China currently does not have its own fixed-wing airport in Antarctica, and the majority of personnel and resources are transported to the continent via the sea.

But Xue believes that ice melting in the region due to climate change has slowed the speed of marine transportation as well as increasing the risks involved.

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