The Chinese icebreaker Xue Long departed Shanghai on June 27 for a three-month expedition that will take it to the Arctic. 120 people are on board, including scientists from France, Denmark, Iceland, and Taiwan. According to China Daily, researchers will study the effects of changes in the Arctic ecosystem on the climate of China and the globe at large. Huigen Yang, Director of the Polar Research Institute of China, stated, “The expedition will be the longest and farthest among [sic] China’s Arctic exploration history and is expected to fulfill the most missions.” The icebreaker’s last trip to the circumpolar north was in 2010 when it studied Arctic sea ice from July 1 – September 20. A brief overview of the 2010 journey is available on the website of one the expedition’s researchers, Dr. Hongjin Xie. Xue Long has also gone on longer trips before: in April, it returned from a 163-day voyage to Antarctica, its 28th trip to the remote continent.
A press release on Chinese National Antarctic Research Expedition (CHINARE)’s website states that scientists will research sea ice in and around the Bering Sea, Bering Strait, Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea, Canada Basin, and the Mendeleev Ridge. After traversing through the Arctic Ocean, Xue Long will sail to Iceland for a five-day research visit. China and Iceland have good diplomatic relations and have lately been strengthening their cooperation in the Arctic. In April, Premier Wen Jiabao visited Iceland to discuss issues such as free trade and geothermal energy development. His was the first visit from a Chinese head of state in forty years. Xue Long will now be the first Chinese icebreaker to visit the North Atlantic nation.