Xuelong, the Snow Dragon, is the icebreaker of the Polar Research Institute of China (PRIC). It is the largest non-nuclear powered icebreaker in the world.
It was built as an ice-strengthened cargo ship, in Ukraine in 1993 but is now a floating laboratory with state of the art facilities and equipment for polar research. It was modified in 1994.
The Xuelong is 167m long, almost 23 meters wide and the ice class is B1 level, it can break through 1.1m of ice, including 20cm of snow by 1,5 knots continously.
It is both a supply vessel for the four research stations PRIC has, one in Svalbard and three in Antarctica, and a scientific research platform in both Poles. This will be the fifth expeditions of the icebreaker in the Arctic; the others were in 1999, 2003, 2008 and 2010. It has made 17 explorations near the South Pole.
The Xuelong is equipped with advanced systems for self-contained navigation and for weather observation, both extremely important qualities for polar expeditions.
There are also excellent facilities for the scientist. The icebreaker has a data processing center and seven laboratories with over 500sq meters of working space, it has operational equipment, a freezer to store samples, a low temperature cultivation room, a clean laboratory, a marine biological laboratory, a marine chemical laboratory, a geological laboratory, and a CTD winch, a biological winch, a geological laboratory, and a hallow-section device of EK-500 model.
Furthermore it contains three operating boats and a helicopter for the transportation and research purposes in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.
China is now designing a new research icebreaker, to be launched in 2014. It will be equipped with the most advanced appliances for marine, polar and astronomical research. The icebreaker will be stronger then the Xuelong, able to sail through rougher ice conditions.
In the end of June 2012 the Snow Dragon began his expedition to Iceland. It is China´s 5th National Arctic Expedition, CHINARE5, is a historic expedition for the history of China's polar exploration. It will be the first time that a Chinese expedition sails through the Arctic through the Northern Sea Route, east of the North Pole.
More information about the Xuelong´s trip to the Arctic is avalaible on the expedition´s homepage.
Source: Snow Dragon´s 5th expedition.