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The Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China

02/24/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 02/23/2019 17:46

Xuelong ends odyssey through ‘roaring forties’

ABOARD XUELONG - Chinese icebreaker Xuelong with the 126 members of China's 35th research mission to Antarctica on board ended a nine-day odyssey through the infamous 'roaring forties' on Feb 22.

Xuelong is taking the Chinese researchers back to home. The voyage beginning on Feb 14 has turned out to be the longest and hardest of its altogether four travels through the westerlies during the research mission.

After leaving Prydz Bay by which the Chinese research base Zhongshan Station is located, the Chinese icebreaker almost immediately entered the westerlies.

'The westerlies usually are between 40 and 60 degrees south latitude, but this time the winds reached further to near 69 degrees south latitude, and that is where Prydz Bay and Zhongshan are,' said Xuelong's Captain Shen Quan.

'We are currently north to the westerlies, but I'm afraid there is still a rocky, shaky journey ahead because of a tropical low pressure,' he added.

Xuelong's northward route had been repeatedly revised and thus successfully averted gales and huge waves as high as 8 meters, according to the weatherman aboard the ship, Wang Lei.

For example, with no ice areas in Prydz Bay to shelter the ship, Xuelong had to depart from Zhongshan one day earlier than scheduled in order not be blocked by a whole gale and huge waves. After leaving the bay, it was first headed northwest to the marine-based west Antarctic ice sheet.

'Then a strong cyclone is moving to us and its resulting waves will block our way to north,' Wang said.

Due to the weather, Xuelong chose to sail westward at the edge of the westerlies to reach a haven area between two moving cyclones, where it had spent two days before huge waves again blocked its way northward.

'After that, Xuelong had spent about 20 hours in waters east to the Kerguelan Islands in order to stay away from the winds and waves on Feb 20,' Shen said.