South Korea's icebreaker 'Araon' returns from expedition to North Pole
Updated: 2021-10-18 09:03:02 KST
"Just a few weeks ago, a team of South Korean experts returned from an 85-day trip to the North Pole. I'm here at the Korea Polar Research Institute to meet the researchers in Songdo."
The Korea Polar Research Institute, or KOPRI for short, has been researching the changes in the Arctic Ocean for 12 years.
During their latest trip, researchers carried out simultaneous ozone observations at both poles using helium balloons.
"Everyone knows that there is an ozone hole over Antarctica. But even in the Arctic, ozone levels are gradually decreasing. That's why it's important to monitor ozone concentrations in the Arctic as well."
KOPRI says its advances in polar research have been accelerated by the introduction of South Korea's first and only icebreaker ship, the "Araon".
It's specially designed to navigate across icy waters,… allowing it to sail through areas where ordinary ships can't,… including the polar regions.
The "Araon" rises above the ice sheet to break the ice using its own weight.
Two propellers at the back push the broken pieces of ice away to prevent them from freezing again near the vessel.
If the "Araon" gets stuck in the middle of an ice sheet, the "ice-heeling system" shakes the vessel to the left and right to help it escape.
And unlike how most ships are shaped in the front, it has a sharper, sloping bow,… and an ice knife underneath.
It's also structurally stronger with outer walls three times thicker than ordinary ships.
Inside the "Araon", there are ten research labs.
Scientists send research equipment into the sea and collect samples to bring to the labs for analysis.
"This is where the researchers sleep and rest. There's a bed, a TV, and a shower room.enough to keep them comfy for the trip."
Another key spot of the "Araon" is the helipad.
Because it can carry its own helicopter,… many experts have found this very useful.
"The helicopter access from the "Araon" is key to what they're going to attempt to do because the area is quite dangerous frankly and you need to be able to land on a spot that's safe…"
The contributions made by KOPRI are being acknowledged globally, despite it being a relatively late starter to polar research.
"I think the ice breaker to a large extent is important in terms of making KOPRI more and more relevant. If we look at other big international collaborations KOPRI is now in all of them"
South Korea's researchers are currently busy as they are gearing up for their next journey, this time heading south.
"The "Araon" will be taking off to Antarctica this week, where experts on board will be spending the next six months observing how climate change is affecting the polar area. Choi Min-jung, Arirang News, Yeosu."