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Behind Xuelong's 160-day expedition / by Yan Pei, May 19, 2014 Adjust font size:

Searching for MH370

Xuelong on March 18 completed its scientific expedition mission and planned to sail home after stopping at Perth, Australia on March 21 to stock up on replenishments.

However, on March 20 when suspected debris of missing Malaysian flight MH370 was spotted on the coast of Western Australia, Xuelong was the one Chinese ship located closest to the area.

At 09:30 a.m. on March 21, Xuelong was anchored in the port of Fremantle, Australia, when it received an order from the State Oceanic Administration of China. The icebreaker was asked to depart the port before 06:00 p.m. and join the search for MH370.

"We only got eight hours to prepare. Our original plan was disrupted," added Jiao. Normally, Xuelong needs to replenish 1,000 tons of oil and 600 tons of fresh water each time. Eight hours only gave Xuelong enough time to get 280 tons of water, 118 tons of oil and a dozen tons of vegetables.

According to the original plans, the 28 team members were set to return to China from Fremantle. However, due to this lack of supplies, another 45 members were asked to disembark from the ship and return home.

"At that time, we learned there had been more than 100 Chinese passengers on the missing plane; we were very worried and all demanded to stay aboard and take part in the search," said Jiao.

Team members bought 20 telescopes especially for the search and ordered six more hooks with rope and a 2*4-meter-wide net to salvage any MH370 debris.

However, Xuelong didn't retrieve any valuable findings during its week-long search for MH370. On March 31, the icebreaker was regrettably forced to start its homebound voyage due to a lack of oil and replenishments.


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