Chinese research vessel Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, left the southern port city of Guangzhou on Monday for an expedition in Antarctica, the State Oceanic Administration announced.
During the 162-day trip, the team on board the icebreaker is expected to conduct comprehensive research and evaluation of the Antarctic mainland environment as well as its surrounding waters.
The journey is the country's 29th scientific expedition to Antarctica.
A significant part of the mission will also include looking for a location for the country's fourth station in the region and second-phase construction of the Kunlun Station.
"A polar scientific expedition is an important realm where our country seeks to ensure its national interests, and it's also closely related to the global climate, eco-environment, the future development of human society and other major topics," said Liu Cigui, head of the administration, at the launch ceremony.
Xuelong is expected to cover 27,000 nautical miles before returning to Shanghai in April, 2013.
China launched its first expedition to the Antarctic in 1984 and has established three stations there, including Changcheng, Zhongshan and Kunlun.
(Xinhua News Agency November 5, 2012)