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Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Trapped Chinese research ship & icebreaker Xuelong makes successful escape from Antarctic ice

Chinese research vessel and icebreaker Xuelong sails in the open waters in Antarctica, Jan. 7, 2014. Trapped China icebreaker Xuelong made successful escape through heavy sea ice at 18:30 Beijing time on Tuesday. (Xinhua/Zhang Jiansong)

ABOARD XUELONG, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) -- Trapped Chinese research vessel and icebreaker Xuelong made a successful escape through heavy sea ice at 18:30 Beijing time (1030 GMT) Tuesday.

Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, has been making consistent efforts to "veer around" the whole day while navigating through thick floes.

The vessel had a difficult time trying to make a turnaround rightward, which started at 5 a.m. Beijing time (2100 GMT Monday), because of the thick ice and the snow covering the floes.

No breakout was made until about 17:50 Beijing time (0950 GMT) when Xuelong pulled a 100 degree turn and strongly pushed away the ice. Under the huge blow, a big floe right ahead suddenly split up and a channel of open waters showed itself. Xuelong quickly voyaged through the channel and broke free of the ice.

The Chinese research vessel and icebreaker, which was on China's 30th scientific expedition to Antarctica, on Dec. 25, 2013 received a distress signal from the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy which was trapped in Antarctic sea.

Xueying-12, a helicopter on-board Xuelong, last Thursday successfully evacuated all the 52 passengers aboard the Russian vessel to the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis.

A helicopter from the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long rescues members of an expedition who had been stranded after their Russian ship was trapped in Antarctic ice. (AFP PHOTO/Jessica Fitzpatrick/Australian Antarctic Division)

However, after the rescue, Xuelong's own movement was blocked by a one-km-long iceberg which was continuously drifting northwest. Xuelong attempted to maneuver through the ice after the giant iceberg drifted away, but its breakout early Saturday morning was unsuccessful.

For these days, Xuelong's being stranded in heavy sea ice in Antarctic Ocean has drawn great attention from the Chinese leadership and the Chinese people. Under the directions of an emergency relief working group aboard, the Xuelong crew have been working in joint efforts to find a way out.

Currently, Xuelong is on voyage in open waters in the Southern Ocean where only a few floes drift on the sea surface, at approximately 66.45 degrees south and 144.50 degrees east. The ship, now sailing at a speed of 9 knots, continues its scientific expedition to Antarctica. - Xinhua

Xuelong epitome of humanitarian outreach

A series of events involved in the rescue of passengers from an icebound Russian research vessel in Antarctica have attracted attention from much of the world in recent days.

Now, China's research vessel Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, has successfully transferred all the passengers to safety, but eventually got stuck itself. The US is sending its most advanced heavy icebreaker to site of the incident for rescue, and Xuelong is trying to break out of the ice.

Xuelong has been in the spotlight during the whole process of the rescue. Originally sent to found China's fourth research station in the Antarctic, this research vessel turned its course immediately when it received the Russian ship's distress signal, regardless of any risks ahead.

Xuelong, not a professional icebreaker, failed to rescue the ship from the ice. But its performance, especially the success in rescuing all the passengers, has been given the thumbs up by global public opinion. China should be proud of it.

The Chinese public also expressed their full support to Xuelong's rescue operation. Although Chinese taxpayers would finally pay all the expense for the rescue, they believe that Xuelong has assumed its international responsibility, not giving a thought as to whether the mission was "worthwhile" or not.

Xuelong's mission is an epitome of China's attitude toward its international obligations. China is willing to integrate itself within the international community as a responsible member.

Along with the establishment of China's fourth research station, the country's scientific research level in Antarctica has already been ranked as one of the best. It is China's growing industrial capacity that empowers Xuelong to perform such a rescue operation. Once again, China's national progress was accidentally confirmed in Antarctica.

This whole rescue operation, at the very beginning, was just a "ship-to-ship" business. But public opinion gradually sensed the existence of the nations behind the scenes. It will come to an end as a humanitarian rescue event. Xuelong has already offered its best performance in this humanitarian test, which shows that Chinese society is growing to be highly mature.

Chinese people care about the image of its nation, but such an image never confuses them when it comes to making the right choice. Throughout the whole event, the safety of the rescuers and the people who were trapped was always their biggest concern.

Well done, Xuelong. We hope it can pull through from the trouble and resume its mission.

We also hope that such effective international cooperation will not only be seen when catastrophes occur. Such a spirit of cooperation will become the most powerful strength to reshape international relations in the 21st century.    - Global Times