China’s second — and the first domestically built — research icebreaker, Xuelong 2, or Snow Dragon 2, set sail on Wednesday from its homeport in Shanghai for its first Arctic expedition.
The mission is also the new icebreaker’s second polar journey, which will sail more than 22,200 kilometers in more than two months, the Ministry of Natural Resources said in a statement on Wednesday evening.
Xuelong 2 concluded a 198-day expedition to the Antarctic in April in its first polar mission.
During the Arctic mission, researchers will investigate a wide range of scientific topics, such as global climate change, Arctic environment and its biodiversity, the statement said, adding the expedition will enable China to improve its research on the polar region.
Xuelong 2 was jointly designed by Finland’s Aker Arctic Technology in Helsinki and China’s Marine Design and Research Institute in Shanghai. Its construction began at the Jiangnan Shipyard Group in Shanghai in December 2016.
The vessel is 122.5-meters long, 22.3-m wide, and has a displacement of 13,996 metric tons. With a maximum speed of 15 knots, or 27.8 kilometers per hour, the icebreaker can sail more than 37,000 km in a single voyage and sustain 60-day expeditions with 90 crew members and researchers.
Incorporated with state-of-the-art designs and advanced equipment, the icebreaker is capable of operating in any ocean around the world.
Designers said the ship is designed to break 1.5-meter-thick ice at speeds of 2 to 3 knots, and can operate in temperatures as low as -30 C.
Before the commissioning of Xuelong 2 in July 2019, China operated a single icebreaker, Xuelong, which was designed for cargo transportation rather than scientific research operations when it was built in Ukraine in 1993. Xuelong was purchased by China and converted to a polar research and resupply vessel. It has carried out dozens of scientific expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic.