Xue Long visits Davis

The 'Xue Long' at anchor at Davis, February 2003.
The 'Xue Long' at anchor at Davis, February 2003. (Photo: J Smith)
'Xue Long's' barge brings the first group of Chinese visitors to Davis wharf, February 2003.Dave M explains the workings of the meteorology building to visitors from the 19th CHINARE, February 2003.Davis expeditioners Gil B, John C and Curtis A tour the 'Xue Long', February 2003.

23 February 2003

On February 20th 2003, expeditioners at Davis were delighted to welcome members of the 19th CHINARE (Chinese National Antarctic Research Expedition) when the polar resupply vessel Xue Long paid a courtesy visit before departing from Antarctica for China (via Fremantle) at the end of the Antarctic summer season.

As well as conducting marine science in Antarctic waters, since mid-January Xue Long had been resupplying Zhong Shan station in the Larsemann Hills, 120 km southwest of Davis. She also conducted changeover of the winter expedition, and brought summering expeditioners. Operations were aided by a Dauphine helicopter.

This season has seen considerable activity at Zhong Shan where a large new accommodation block is under construction. From next year Zhong Shan will become the larger of the two Chinese Antarctic stations, and the main focus of the entire Chinese Antarctic program.

Two major field research programs were based at Zhong Shan this season: a meteorite study expedition to the Grove Mountains; and an ice-coring expedition to Amery Ice Shelf. Collaborative glaciological research with Australian scientists is being planned for the Amery next season.

Australian-Chinese collaboration in Antarctica is not new. For many years there has been frequent communication between personnel based at Davis and Zhong Shan, with daily exchanges of weather data and ongoing joint research programs in upper atmosphere physics, as well as mutual assistance whenever needed and social visits.

This occasion was typical. Xue Long slipped along the channel between the offshore grounded icebergs and dropped anchor off Davis early in the morning. Soon her barge was slipping across the calm harbour to the wharf with eager Chinese visitors. It returned to the ship with equally eager Australians wanting to look over this large, impressive veteran of Antarctic shipping operations.

The visitors to Davis were shown all parts of the station, and offered refreshments. Many took advantage of the post office, opened specially for the occasion. Scientists toured the laboratories and viewed the outdoor physics apparatus with particular interest. The Chinese weather observers met their Australian colleagues and looked over the meteorology building. Many meetings were between old friends, reflecting the frequency of communications between our stations.

In the afternoon, a group of Davis expeditioners was invited to a party aboard the ship. After touring the bridge and engine room, we were ushered into a large room where a meal was laid out. Captain Yuan Show Hong made a speech of welcome, and Davis Station Leader, Jeremy Smith, responded. Gifts were exchanged, and the food was enjoyed to the accompaniment of excellent Shanghai-brewed Reeb beer.

After the meal there were entertainments, including karaoke singing at which our hosts proved much more skilled than ourselves! There was also some dancing, and much joyful camaraderie, before the Australian visitors were barged ashore – taking the empty Reeb bottles with them, converting unwanted rubbish into a usable resource in the home-brewing operation.

Xue Long departed early next morning, with thanks and best wishes exchanged by radio as she slipped away behind Gardner Island and the icebergs. Weather information is being faxed to her daily to assist with her journey. She also takes with her, and leaves behind, many happy memories of another enjoyable occasion in this most international of continents.