China, noting that its ship Xuelong (Snow Dragon) is now stuck in the Antarctic ice as it was rescuing the Russian vessel MV Akademik Shokalskiy, has decided it will build a new icebreaker for polar expeditions.
Qu Tanzhou, director of the State Oceanic Administration’s Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration, told the press that the idea for the new vessel had been approved by the government. He stated, “The new icebreaker will be shorter and be equipped with blades both at the bow and the stern, which will be able to open ice 1.5 meters thick.” The Xuelong is capable of breaking ice 1.2 meters thick.
Even the new vessel, which would be utilized for field research rather than supplying the science stations in the Antarctic, would be hard-pressed to break the ice surrounding the Russian ship, which is up to four meters thick. But Qu said that the ship, boasting a stronger power system as well as more decks and laboratories, will be a “mobile research station.”
The Ukraine-built Xuelong, built in 1994, was not designed as a field research vessel, but instead was envisioned as a supply transporter for China’s research stations in the Antarctic. The Xueying 12, the ship’s helicopter, rescued 52 passengers aboard the Akademik Shokalskiy on Thursday and flew them to the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis, which was sent to aid the Russian ship.
But after the rescue, the Xuelong became stuck in the ice, 21 kilometers away from water it could maneuver in. The ship has adequate supplies and fuel, so there is no danger for its personnel, but a blizzard on Sunday made the decks icy and movement atop them extremely difficult.
Now that the Chinese ship is stuck, the U.S. Coast Guard is sending its icebreaker Polar Star to help the Xuelong and the Akademik Shokalskiy break out of the ice.