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The Maritime Self-Defense Force icebreaker Shirase has reached Showa Station, Japan’s Antarctic research facility.

Carrying members of the country’s 63rd research expedition team, the ship arrived on fast ice some 350 meters off the coast of East Ongul Island where the base is located at 11:11 a.m. Sunday, 40 days since it left Japan.

Work to transport goods and fuel from the ship to the station will begin on a full scale shortly.

A total of 20 members of the 62nd and 63rd teams waved at the ship, which had completed its outward voyage, from the top of a huge boulder overlooking the coast.

“The year quickly went by,” said 25-year-old Haruki Sugiyama of Hokkaido University, a member of the 62nd team.

“I’d like to make sure that I carry out a proper handover process and finish tasks that are still left,” he added while he gazed at the orange ship.

On Nov. 10, the Shirase departed from Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.

After receiving resupply at Australia, the ship conducted oceanographic observations as it traveled to Showa Station.

The number of ramming operations by the ship to break ice while maneuvering through fast ice on the way to the base came to 610 times, up from last year’s 391.

The transportation of goods using snow vehicles and fuel transportation using hoses are slated to start soon.

Work to set up outside facilities and observations will also be in full swing.

The Shirase is scheduled to return to Japan in March next year, carrying home the 62nd team and some members of the 63rd team.

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