China’s Taishan station offers modern life deep in Antarctic ice sheet

China’s Taishan research station in the East Antarctic inland ice sheet enjoys the conveniences of modern life as it has heating, power and water supplies.

China's Taishan station offers modern life deep in Antarctic ice sheet

The necessities of urban life are definitely luxuries here, affording a heavenly haven from an environment featuring blowing snows and an annual average temperature of 36.6 degrees Celsius below zero.

The Taishan station is of a striking red color in the icy Princess Elizabeth Land, with a circular structure that is shaped like a traditional Chinese red lantern.

What makes life more convenient at the station is built under the ice sheet. The supporting facilities — at first sight a long pipeline corridor with doors that open on both sides to equipment rooms — were just completed on Friday to light the “red lantern” in a sustainable manner.

Taishan’s main building on the ground was opened for use in February 2014, and more than 40 meters to its east lies the very entrance to the supporting facilities under the ice sheet.

It took 38 days to complete the key infrastructure project, a week ahead of schedule. The work involved building infrastructure for an unattended power supply, green energy, sewage disposal, heating as well as snow/ice melting, among others.

In addition to installing diesel generating sets, wind and solar power systems were installed and tested, part of which are on the ground, said Yao Xu, head of the 35th Chinese research mission to the Antarctic. The 21 versatile members of his team carried out all the work in building the supporting facilities, or the second stage of the construction of the Taishan station.

Accomplishing such tasks under the Antarctic ice sheet has been a new experience for the Chinese team.

Thanks to the preparations made as early as in the first stage, the work in the past month went smoothly, Yao said, citing the excavation of a foundation ditch under the main building.

Careful planning and coordination have proved vital, as the weather is crucial to conducting any activities here. The team’s deputy head Wang Zhechao said, “The weather began to worsen since Jan. 10, and a storm lasting eight days in particular made things more difficult.”

Taishan is the fourth of its kind built by China over the decades since the Great Wall station was set up in 1964. It is located about 520 km away from Zhongshan, and is located between Zhongshan and Kunlun at an altitude of 2,621 meters. Like Kunlun, Taishan is a summer station only.

Furthermore, China will build a fifth research base, its third perennial one, on the west coast of the Ross Sea.

“Taishan is designed to be used by as many as 20 people,” said Yao. “It is now more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly with the increased use of automation and other high technologies.”


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