At the tip of the poles, writing new stories of exploration and mutual help

BEIJING, June 27, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — A news report by on the 40th anniversary of China’s polar expedition:

At the tip of the poles, writing new stories of exploration and mutual help

At the southernmost tip of the earth, a monstrosity of ice and snow measuring nearly 2,500 meters’ depth covers 14 million km² of land, resembling a gigantic hat. The crest of the “hat”, known as “Dome A” — is a freezing and mysterious structure, and is also considered to be a pole impassable to humans.

In this Dome A hides the key to numerous scientific myths, which also tells how people have explored the unknown of Antarctica.

Three shovels after two after one… On the eve of the Spring Festival, 1997, few knew that a Chinese man was digging a hole on the ice plateau of the Antarctica at a time of family gathering in China. The man, Li Yuansheng, later became the first director of China’s Antarctic Kunlun Station. At that time, Li as an exchange scholar, was assigned to an expedition about the ice sheet in Antarctica with a Japanese scientific expedition team.

After that arduous investigation, Li Yuansheng wrote a 30,000-word report, which offered valuable reference for China’s Antarctic continental expedition. Also from there, Li embarked on his career in Antarctica, constantly pushing limits.

Li and his colleagues are the first to conquer Dome A. On December 12, 2004, the 21st Antarctic expedition began. Li and his team members ventured deep into the ice plateau on four snowmobiles, carrying more than 100 tons of supplies. After nearly 40 days of trudging, Li and his fellow colleagues finally mounted the summit of Dome A, a first for all humanity. Four years later, just on this tip of the ice sheet, China’s Antarctic Kunlun Station was built, creating a miracle in the history of Antarctica.

While Li Yuansheng acted as the director of Kunlun Station, China collaborated with Japan’s National Institute of Polar Research and developed a deep ice-core drilling machine tailored to the environmental features at the Kunlun Station, and extracted an 800-meter-long quality ice core in 2017. The deep ice cores are like the “tree rings” of the earth, in which valuable information about the global climate change may reside.

Li Yuansheng’s experiences can be viewed as an epitome of how China evolved from a late-comer to a forerunner and an active collaborator with other countries in polar expedition and study.

In 1984, China founded its very first Antarctic expedition team; over four decades, China established seven stations in the polar regions, owning two ice-breaking ships; it participated in almost all large-scale international plans for Antarctica and the Southern Ocean investigation, while expanding its cooperation with other countries concerning the North Pole region. In 2017, China initiated the “Silk Road on Ice,” which signifies new opportunities for the interconnectivity as well as economic and social development in the North Pole region. During the 34th Antarctic expedition, China was involved in the significant international collaboration efforts in protecting the historical and cultural heritage in Antarctica; during the 13th expedition to the North Pole, China and Thailand collaborated for the first time on the investigation into the new pollutant — microplastics.

The four decades of China’s polar exploration is not only about discovering the unknown with courage and wisdom, but also marks a milestone in international collaboration through institution building, scientific research and peaceful utilization, which is also in line with building a global community of shared future.

Li Yuansheng once said, his dream is to extract a deep ice core that penetrates the ice sheet at the climax of the Antarctic continent. Between the pure ocean and sky, among the complicated challenges, a new chapter of pushing the limits, mutual help and unity, and benefiting the humanity is being ushered in.

China Mosaic 

At the tip of the poles, writing new stories of exploration and mutual help