China's Antarctica station celebrates 30th birthday


Aurora seen from Zhongshan station in 2015. (Photo: VCG)

Zhongshan station, China's most important scientific research base in Antarctica, celebrates its 30th birthday on Tuesday.

It now covers an area of 7,436 square meters and has 15 buildings with various labs, telecommunication facilities, and cozy accommodations for visiting scientists.

From simple measurement to studying global issues

Established in the Larsemann Hills of Antarctica on Feb. 26, 1989, the Zhongshan station started from zero to a world-class research base, used for studies in marine, glaciological, geological and atmospheric sciences and for expeditions inland.

At the beginning, it could only measure local temperatures and wind speed. Three decades on, it can not only measure a vast range of items including ozone, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor, but also conduct research on thorny international issues.

For example, the deep study on the ozone concentration of the Antarctic and the cause of the ozone hole, is contributing to global environmental protection.

An independent research base

In the early days after its establishment, the station relied on help from other countries to carry out tasks.

For instance, when the station first started to conduct high-altitude atmospheric observations in 1994, they mainly used equipment from Japan and Australia, and shared the gathered data with them, according to Hu Hongqiao, head of the Zhongshan station.

In 2011 some of the Japanese equipment was replaced with domestic ones. Hu packed them and mailed them back to Japan

The station is also equipped with a tide station to monitor sea levels and study global warming. The original tide station was built with the help from Australian engineers. But China managed to build its own in Feb. 2010.

Now the Zhongshan station has become a logistics center for China's Antarctic exploration and the researchers have moved from containers to steel structures with foam board insulation. And China's first airport on the continent is also being built 28 kilometers from the station.