China Expands its Expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic Regions

Xue Long and Xue Long 2 (file image courtesy ABB)

Published Jul 16, 2023 3:06 PM by The Maritime Executive

China has launched additional expeditions to the Arctic and the Antarctic as it seeks to expand its foothold in the polar regions. Last week, China’s natural resources authority said that the country is preparing for its 40th Antarctic expedition. At the same time, the authority flagged off its 13th Arctic Ocean mission.

“We are continuously improving the national polar observation and monitoring network and accelerating the construction of the fifth Antarctic research station,” said China’s Minister of Natural Resources Wang Guanghua.

In April, the Chinese Antarctic Scientific Expedition completed the 39th expedition to Antarctica. The mission lasted for 163 days from October 2022 to April, involving 255 researchers. Two research icebreakers, Snow Dragon and Snow Dragon 2, were used for the expedition.

The researchers focused on impacts of climate change to the Southern Ocean and oceanic ecosystem investigations at the South Pole. Most of the observations and data analysis was carried out in four of China’s Antarctic research stations. A fifth one is currently under construction.

Meanwhile, the Snow Dragon 2 this week set off from Shanghai for the 13th scientific expedition to the Arctic Ocean. The expedition is intended to boost China’s capabilities in the areas of the Arctic Ocean environmental protection and marine pollution assessments. It will also investigate the geology and geophysics of the mid-ocean ridge.

In addition, the researchers will work with scientists from Russia and Thailand, especially on topics that could promote international cooperation on Arctic Scientific expeditions.

The 13th expedition is scheduled to end in late September after a trip of 15,500 nautical miles.

With climate change, the polar regions are increasingly becoming accessible, laying bare pristine ecosystems and resources for interested countries to explore. China has seized this opportunity to widen its footprint in the region, and seeks to elevate its influence in polar affairs. Melting of the Arctic ice will see the opening of new shipping routes, which have immense significance for Beijing.