My Journey to the Antarctic Pole

By 吴婵Viewed 34 2019-04-04

It’s with great honor for me to know when I was selected as a member of the 35th Antarctic Science Expedition Team in China to Taishan Station on behalf of the research team of Prof. Wei Haikun from the School of Automation of Southeast University for completing the comprehensive testing of the unattended mobile power test platform. I could not feel calm for a long time and felt increased pressure beyond excitement.



The unattended mobile power platform is a power supply platform designed by the research team of Prof. Wei Haikun from Southeast University to have autonomous operation, satellite communication, real-time video surveillance and flexible mobility etc.. The platform can provide uninterrupted power supply for scientific research equipment working at Taishan Station in the harsh natural environment of low temperature, low pressure and lack of oxygen there. It is also an important component of Taishan Station's energy infrastructure. As early as in 2009, the research team led by Prof. Wei Haikun studied the uninterruptible power supply in the extreme environment. Upon continuous in-depth exploration and optimization design for almost a decade, the concept of “unattended mobile power” was put forward. The unattended power test platform that was transported to Taishan Station in Antarctic was designed to conduct a comprehensive on-site test of each system of the platform, which would lay a solid foundation for the next-generation unattended power supply platform at Taishan Station. Therefore, before my departure for the Antarctic trip, I secretly made up my mind to work hard with all efforts and live up to hope.

On November 2, 2018, with a low and long siren, the “Snow Dragon” boat slowly left the dock of Shanghai Polar Science Research Base, heading for the South Pole. Relatives who saw me off at the shore shouted from time to time, “Bon voyage! Waiting for you back!” We were all standing on the deck, waving to say goodbye to our loved. The figures of the relatives were getting smaller and smaller, and the “Snow Dragon” boat was getting farther and farther away from the dock until we can no longer see the figures of our loved. We just reluctantly left the deck and entered the cabin dormitory. When the “Snow Dragon” boat rushed to the depth of the sea, the cabin began to sway, and the alleged “seasickness” appeared without exception of me. I could only find the doctor to take the seasicknesstablets and lay down honestly. Two or three days later, when my brain had been accustomed to the feeling of “walking in a floating manner”, everything was the same on land.

We were provided with very considerate logistics services on the “Snow Dragon” boat. In addition to the breakfast, lunch and dinner, we were also served with profound midnight snacks of both southern and northern characteristics. In addition to the days when the boat entered the area where the westerly wind was prevailing (the boat was shaking a lot and many people got seasick), the restaurant was always the liveliest place. Sometimes the queues that lined up for food can stretch to the hallway outside the restaurant. After contacts for a few days, the team members became acquainted with each other. When several big guys were chatting together, we were just feeling at home. Indeed, our 35th Antarctic scientific expedition team was a big family, who would live and work together for nearly half a year. We had to support and help each other as family members.

In addition to considerate logistics services, the “Snow Dragon” boat also highlighted complete facilities including gymnasium, swimming pool, table tennis table, basketball court, library and karaoke, etc.; besides, various competitions were occasionally organized, such as singing competitions, photography competitions, guess the iceberg and cross-the-equator commemoration activity, etc.. In particular, the “Antarctic University”, with the team leader Sun Bo as the president, held open classes twice a week. The scientists, engineers or researchers engaged in the mission served as the lecturers. They communicated with all team members and shared their research achievements, the latest science and technology both at home and abroad or what they’d seen and heard at Antarctic with all team members. Meanwhile, the temporary CPC of the 35th Antarctic Scientific Expedition Team never forgot the party education of party members. Under President Xi Jinping’s guiding ideology of “understanding the Antarctic, protecting the Antarctic and utilizing the Antarctic”, we conducted regular party classes and organized activities such as “review the party's oath” and “wearing the party emblem in the entire process of scientific investigation”, etc.. Every party member should keep in mind of his mission firmly without forgetting his/her initial aspiration, take the lead in spite of hardship and enjoy the fun afterwards.

On December 1, 2018, the “Snow Dragon” boat finally arrived at the periphery of Zhongshan Station after nearly a month of voyage and stopped on sea ice about 44 kilometers away from Zhongshan Station when blocked by the ice-covered area. The expedition team members were always faced with the danger of ice cracks. They downloaded cargoes on the sea ice and finally transported more than 1,600 tons of cargoes to the Antarctic land uponarduous work day and night, creating “Snow Dragon” boat’s latest record of downloading on ice. In the course, I was responsible for downloading the canned oil sac.

On December 7, 2018, all the members left “Snow Dragon” boat by the Dolphin helicopter to the Antarctic Zhongshan Station. After a short break there, we prepared for the assignment at the departure base about 7 kilometers away from Zhongshan Station, including sled maintenance and cleaning, container repackaging, sled handling and oil filling, etc.. When everything was ready, in the early morning of December 18, five CARTs and six PB300s, led by the head car flying with the national flag and the party flag, lined up in a long queue and set off to the inland of the Antarctic. What a spectacular scene. We drove straight to Taishan and Kunlun Stations. If you ask me what I felt on the road, I’d say what a magnificent landscape this boundless and inaccessible land with extremely pure blue sky. Unfortunately, I didn't appreciate the beautiful scenery because I was carsick and lying in the carriage most of the time. What a pity.

In the afternoon of December 25, 2018, the day of Christmas, we finally arrived at Taishan Station. Looking at the festive Chinese red lanterns in the distance, every person had smile on the face and can't wait for gettingoff to take photos. Later, we held a flag-raising ceremony in front of the main building of Taishan Station. When the national anthem sounded, everyone looked so serious. At this moment, only singing loudly can express our feeling of proud of being at Taishan Station, Antarctic as a Chinese.

Taishan Station is more than 2,600 meters above the sea level with the average temperature of minus 36.6 degrees and the air pressure of about 700 kilopascals. The climate there is rather harsh. Every day at Taishan Station, I felt racing against the time. In the first seven days, all the team members assisted the teammates of Baosteel Engineering to excavate the foundation pit under the snow. It was common to work against the wind and snow to excavate the snow pits, level the site, lift and joint the containers, and backfill the snow, etc., which took us a week to complete the work.

On January 4, 2019, I officially began assembling the unattended mobile power test platform. It took about 4 days from the opening and sorting out the equipment to the initial installation of the platform. The main work during this period included disassembly of equipment packaging, fixing and installation of the generator set, installation of the Iridium terminal, installation of the unit exhaust pipe, wiring of the cabin’s electrical equipment and troubleshooting of the control cabinet circuit. It took subsequent two days to test the cabin structure insulation and material weatherability. The experiment achieved a complete success and the cabin insulation effect was better than expected. On January 8, 2019, the generator set was successfully started and operated for the first time manually, followed by the control system test, the remote command interactive test and the video monitoring system debugging. On January 18, 2019, the platform was completely assembled and entered the continuous operation test phase to send the system operation data and video surveillance pictures to the domestic monitoring center at regular intervals.

Upon receiving the notice from the expedition team, we evacuated from Taishan Station in the morning of February 3, 2019. At 9 o'clock in the morning, I went to the unattended mobile power test cabin again and walked around for a circle, listening to the familiar operation sound of the generator set, which made me to feel heartfelt excited and also relieved. A voice echoed in my heart: “this trip really deserves the efforts and live up to the expectations”. At 10 o'clock, I boarded on the returning PB300 snowmobile towards Zhongshan Station. On February 10, the team arrived at Zhongshan Station. On February 15, the team boarded the “Snow Dragon” boat back home. On March 12, the “Snow Dragon” boat arrived at Shanghai Polar Expedition Base.



The 131-day trip to Antarctic ended here. In retrospect of this period and experience, I felt a lot. Many things happened for the first time, which should be the valuable treasures in my life, for example, it was the first time for me to spend the Spring Festival at the far-off Antarctic away from my parents, wife and child, to sail 30,000 nautical miles, to see the penguin face to face, to see the killer whale... More importantly, it was also the first time for me to arrive at Antarctic, to know the spirit of Antarctic. “The Antarctic spirit can be summarized in a word – work. Only hard work can achieve great success”, said by Wei Fuhai, the deputy leader.

The Antarctic is the last pure land of mankind. May everyone “know the Antarctic, protect the Antarctic and utilize the Antarctic appropriately”. (Ge Jian)

This paper is published on Volume 4, Issue 1392, Newspaper of Southeast University.