China launched its first ever round-the-world ocean research mission on Saturday to search the seas for new forms of life.
Its top research ship, the Dayang Yihao (Ocean No 1), will visit the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean after setting off from Qingdao in East China's Shandong Province.
Mission leaders hope they'll be able to bring back plants, fish and other sea life that can be used in biological research.
They'll also look for new mineral deposits that could have future economic value.
On a deck cabin overlooking the sea, Lu Huisheng, captain of the vessel said last Friday that his biggest wish was to sleep soundly on the last few nights before his ship sets sail.
"But I haven't been able to fall asleep at all," he said. "It seems there's an endless amount of last-minute things to do." Preparations began about a year ago.
Wang Chunsheng, the chief scientist on the trip, said researchers will test China's latest marine technology and develop a group of ocean professionals.
The mission is planned to last for 300 days, with the ship returning to Qingdao next January. A total of 72 people are on board for the first phase, of which 30 are ordinary seamen and 42 are scientific researchers.
"Five of the researchers are university graduates," Wang noted.
The 40-year-old Lu, who has 20 years of sailing experience, said he was very proud to have been chosen as the captain. He said he is now used to life on the ocean waves.
Lu said his biggest challenge would be safety. "What I am concerned about most is safety while sailing, making sure we carry out the work we need to do, and the safety of the people on board."
Besides the work, Lu also takes care of recreational life on the vessel. He said there's plenty of entertainment on the ship, including books, videos and sports activities.
"Anyone who boards our ship will learn to play ping pong within a month," he said, adding this will help crew members keep fit.
Lu said modern technology will also greatly relieve homesickness felt by people on board, as they'll be able to keep contact with their families regularly through e-mail wherever the ship was.
Lin Shaotian, the ship's chef, was busying preparing dinner in the kitchen as the others were having their last mobilization meeting last Friday. "My job is to make sure they eat healthily and are happy," he said.
Lin said he would prepare fresh vegetables whenever they could get them. "We will not be able to load another batch of fresh vegetables until the next port."
Standing in a storeroom packed with rice, flour, and other food, Lin said there were food supplies on board for more than 400 days.
Source: Xinhua News Agency
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