The Japanese icebreaker Shirase returned home Saturday, concluding a five-month Antarctic research mission.

The 11,600-ton vessel arrived in Tokyo carrying 174 crew members who were welcomed home by relatives and friends.

The ship was also carrying research data collected on the continent and about 160 tons of waste from Antarctica, including used snowmobiles and cranes.

Another 16 members of Japan’s 43rd Antarctic expedition returned home in late March by air via Sydney.

The ship left Tokyo in November and arrived at Japan’s Showa Base in Antarctica in late December.

Japan has dispatched researchers to the continent almost every year since its first Antarctic expedition in 1956.

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