A Chinese icebreaker continued its Arctic voyage on Sunday while sailing along a high-latitude seaway, the first by a Chinese vessel in the Arctic Ocean.
The icebreaker Xuelong, or “Snow Dragon,” started to head northward from the west of Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic, and reached the edge of ice sea 81 degrees north latitude Friday.
There are, till now, two sea routes through the Arctic: the Northwest Passage and the Northeast Passage, both connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Whether and when the high-latitude route could be used depend on the melting pace of the sea ice in the region.
The Xuelong has completed its first trip through the Northeast seaway after channeling through five marginal seas of the Arctic from July 22 to Aug. 2: the Chukchi Sea, the East Siberian Sea, the Laptev Sea, the Kaka Sea and the Barents Sea.
It is the first such voyage by a Chinese vessel which opened an Arctic route connecting the Pacific and the Atlantic for future Chinese science expeditions.
The Xuelong, an A-2 class icebreaker capable of breaking ice 1.2 meters thick, will travel 17,000 nautical miles (27,000 km) before returning to Shanghai on Sept. 29.