China plans to build first Antarctic airfield to aid explorationWorld Press
China has announced plans to construct an airfield in Antarctica to advance its scientific research and exploration projects on the continent, the Global Times newspaper reported on Wednesday.
The fixed-wing airport will be located not far away from the Zhongshan Station in East Antarctica. The report provides no other details on the runway’s length and capacity.
China currently does not have its own fixed-wing airport in Antarctica, and most personnel and resources are transported to the Earth's southernmost continent via sea.
"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, said.
The scientist believes that the speed of marine transportation has slowed amid ice melting in the region caused by climate change, and the risks have increased.
During China’s latest expedition which ended in April this year, polar explorers opened the country’s fourth research station called Taishan, which is located at an altitude of 2,600 km above the sea level.
China launched its first Antarctic expedition in 1984. For its expeditions, China uses its sole icebreaker Xuelong (Snow Dragon), which it bought from Ukraine in 1993.
The icebreaker is scheduled to leave Shanghai for Antarctica on Thursday to find out if the proposed site for the construction of an airfield is suitable. Xuelong is expected to arrive at Zhongshan Station in mid-December.
Antarctica is considered to be a politically neutral continent, although a range of countries claim sovereignty in certain areas.