Scientists on literary journey


Arctic explorers have published a memoir of their adventure

Wei Menghua, a 78-year-old veteran polar scientist, still feels excited and proud when he recalls the Chinese national flag flying at the North Pole for the first time 23 years ago.

In 1995, he led a scientific investigation team to the central area of the Arctic Ocean, kicking off China's Arctic exploration.

His 25-member team included scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Earthquake Administration, as well as journalists from News Agency and China Central Television.

Now, more than 20 years later, Wei and his teammates have embarked on another Arctic journey-recounting that year's stories in a book.

The publication, titled 1995 Arctic Memory of China, was published in September by the China Ocean University Press. The publisher held an event for readers recently, at which Wei and four other members of the team talked about the expedition.

"Curiosity is the starting point of scientific inquiry and the unremitting spirit of exploration drives the development of science," Wei said.

In the 1990s, it was difficult to organize a scientific expedition to the Arctic due to a lack of financial support.

Realizing the strategic significance of Arctic study for China, Wei gave up a stable job with a research institution and put all his efforts into seeking that support.

"The Earth's two poles not only have a great impact on the environment, but are also rich in natural resources," Wei said.

"China had made great scientific achievements in the Antarctic but had made less progress in Arctic research at that time. A true investigative journey to the Arctic was necessary."

He was quickly joined by other people who shared his belief. As more programs on the Arctic were shown on TV and newspapers published reports, awareness of the appeal grew.

Finally, Wei and his team's endeavors paid off and they won sponsorship of 3 million yuan ($476,700) from a private enterprise.

Although the financing was in place, more challenges lay ahead. The team encountered a life-threatening environment with extremely low temperatures, violent storms and uNPRedictable ice conditions-and they had to learn how to survive.

When it was time to set off, "it was hard to say goodbye to our families, but every member was determined", Wei said.

He said it was because of their dreams as well as their determination that they completed the first mission successfully.

"Throughout history, the spirit of adventure and creativity of the Chinese people has been inferior to no other nation in the world," Wei said.

A year after the expedition, China became the first developing country to join the International Arctic Science Committee, partly thanks to the team's outstanding performance.

Zhang Wei, another team member, was responsible for documenting and keeping video records of the expedition. It was his 27th birthday when the team set off, and the expedition was a precious time in his youth, he said, adding that he hoped the memoir will inspire future generations.

Li Xicong, deputy editor-in-chief of the China Ocean University Press, said the book was a record of a historic event that could also be used for scientific education.

"We will introduce the book to more universities and colleges in China, hoping to encourage more young people," Li said.

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