February 22, 2010 12:08
The maiden voyage to the South Pole of Korea's first ice breaker is being hailed as a resounding success. The Araon and crew have completed what they set out to do, navigating through frozen waters to test the vessel's capabilities and examining candidate sites for a second Korean research station in Antarctica.
The ship is docked at Lyttelton Port in Christchurch, New Zealand, which was its first port of call when it set sail for Antarctica in mid-December.
This mission was the first ever for Korea, which is aiming to study and explore the natural resources in the polar region.
While there, Araon ploughed through 500 m of ice up to 1.1 m thick in order to test its aptitude.
The 23 researchers finished their in-depth, on-site survey of the potential sites for a new polar station at Cape Burks and Terra Nova Bay. Both provide easy access to rich natural resources and marine life. The results of their findings will be reviewed by the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs followed by hearings.
The authorities will weigh the pros and cons of each site, including the likelihood of potential territorial disputes with research stations affiliated with other countries. After determining the site of choice by the first half of the year, the ministry will seek authorization for building the polar research station from the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting.
Araon is set to arrive back home at Incheon Port by the middle of March.
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