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South Korean icebreaker “Araon” returns from North Pole expedition


“Just a few weeks ago, a team of South Korean experts returned from an 85-day trip to the North Pole. I am here at the Korea Polar Research Institute to meet the researchers in Songdo.”

The Korea Polar Research Institute, or KOPRI for short, has been studying changes in the Arctic Ocean for 12 years.
On their last trip, the researchers made simultaneous observations of ozone at both poles using helium balloons.

“Everyone knows there is a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica. But even in the Arctic, ozone levels are gradually declining. This is why it is also important to monitor ozone concentrations in the Arctic.

KOPRI says its progress in polar research was accelerated by the introduction of South Korea’s first and only icebreaker, the “Araon”.
It is specially designed to navigate on icy waters,… which allows it to navigate in areas where ordinary ships cannot,… including the polar regions.

The “Araon” rises above the ice cap to break the ice using its own weight.
Two propellers aft push back the broken pieces of ice to prevent them from freezing again near the ship.
If the “Araon” gets stuck in the middle of an ice cap, the “icing system” shakes the ship left and right to help it escape.
And unlike how most ships are shaped up front, it has a sharper, slanted bow … and an ice knife underneath.
It is also structurally stronger with exterior walls three times thicker than regular ships.

Inside the “Araon” there are ten research laboratories.
Scientists send research equipment to the sea and collect samples to take to laboratories for analysis.

(Get up)
“This is where the researchers sleep and rest. There is a bed, a TV and a shower room. Enough for them to be comfortable during the trip.”

Another key point of the “Araon” is the helipad.
Because it can carry its own helicopter,… many experts have found it very useful.

“The helicopter access from the ‘Araon’ is the key to what they will attempt to do because the area is frankly quite dangerous and you need to be able to land in a safe place…”

The contributions made by KOPRI are recognized around the world, although this is a relatively late start to polar research.

“I think the icebreaker is to a large extent important in making KOPRI more and more relevant. If we look at other big international collaborations, KOPRI is now in all of them.”

South Korean researchers are currently busy as they prepare for their next trip, this time heading south.

The ‘Araon’ will take off to Antarctica next week, where experts on board will spend the next six months observing how climate change is affecting the polar region.
Choi Min-jung, Arirang News, Yeosu. ”