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Chinese Atop Earth's Summit for Height Measurement

A team of Chinese researchers/mountaineers on a mission to remeasure the height of Mount Qomolangma scaled the earth's highest peak and successfully performed measuring operations Sunday.

This is the second measurement endeavor taken by the Chinese over the past three decades. The first measurement done by Chinese in 1975 reported the height of the world's top mountain at 8,848. 13 meters above sea level.

The 24-member team spent 77 minutes on the top of the peak, erecting a 2.5-meter-long survey beacon and establishing a GPS ( global positioning system) monitoring station there for height measurement in the next two days and in the future. The researchers and mountaineers also used a radar device to detect the thickness of the snow and ice coat of Mount Qomolangma, which straddles the border between China and Nepal. The final result of the current measurement will exclude the thickness of ice and snow capping the peak.

The GPS and radar device, used for the first time by Chinese surveyors, are for a more precise result. The traditional trigonometric leveling method, which was used in the 1975 expedition, however, is still used in this mission for results comparison.

The team started its final assault on the peak at 3:30 a.m. from a camp at 8,300 meters above sea level and scaled the top of the peak around 11:08, braving strong gales and temperature as low as minus 29.6 degrees centigrade. It started retreating from the top at 12:25.

This final maneuver was postponed several times from the original planned date of May 5 to May 22 due to bad weather conditions.

Meanwhile, researchers have begun surveying at six selected sites, ranging from 5,200 to 6,300 meters above sea level, where surveyors can see the top of Mount Qomolangma. They are expected to do the measuring for the next two days, said Zhang Jiangyuan, leader of the team.

A second team of Chinese researchers and mountaineers are expected to assault the top of Mount Qomolangma Monday.

Geological theory predicts that Mount Qomolangma, which was formed about 60 million years ago, is growing about 10 millimeters a year as a result of crustal upthrust in the Himalayas, but some researchers in recent years have contended that the summit is becoming shorter as it begins to subside.

The height of the peak has been a subject of controversy for decades. A survey by an American research team in 1999 said the peak is 8,850 meters.

"Measurement of Mount Qomolangma's height has an important bearing on our lives," said Zhang Yanping, chief director of the measurement efforts, "What attracts people's attention is not only the height of the peak, but also the changes of the peak's height and geological changes in the area, which will have a great impact on global biosphere, atmosphere and lithosphere."

"It's our bounden duty to measure the height of Mount Qomolangma," said Chen Bangzhu, head of the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping, in a congratulatory message, calling the current scaling a "great daring feat in the history of Mount Qomolangma's height measurement."

"Results of the current measurement will provide important data for the study of crustal movement and for other geoscience studies, " Chen said.

The ongoing survey is part of China's fourth large-scale comprehensive scientific survey on Qomolangma, jointly organized by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping, and the government of Tibet Autonomous Region.

Scientists will also conduct research on the impact of global warming on glaciers and make observations of atmospheric physics and chemistry, bio-diversity and environmental changes in the Himalayan region, said Zhang Jiangqi, a researcher with the Chinese academy of Sciences, the top research body of natural sciences in China.

A monument will be erected at the mountain's base camp to mark the current measurement efforts. The final result is expected to be announced in August.

Peoples Daily

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