Deep sea submersible sinks to a new low

China’s Jiaolong, designed to be the world’s deepest-diving submersible, succeeded in going down 5,038 meters into the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday morning, topping a successful 4,027-meter dive Thursday.

The manned submersible, which can decend at a speed of 40 meters per minute, spent more than six hours underwater before returning to its mother ship, the Xinhua News Agency said on Tuesday.

Ye Cong, Yang Bo and Fu Wentao were the members of the three-man crew. “If the weather allows, Jiaolong will have another test dive on Wednesday,” an official surnamed Li with the State Oceanic Administration told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Operational tests, originally scheduled to end in the middle of August, involved taking photos, recording video, surveying the seabed, taking samples from the ocean floor, and locating mineral resources.

The tests were also designed to train crewmembers to complete special missions, such as underwater high-definition video shooting, according to Xinhua.
As the world’s first manned vehicle designed to dive to up to 7,000 meters below sea level, Jiaolong will challenge its 7,000-meter mission next year, Xinhua quoted Xu Qinan, chief designer of the submersible, as saying.

Equipped with advanced digital underwater communication systems and mobility systems, the domestically manufactured craft can “move back and forth easily under the sea,” Xu said.

Launched in 2002, Jiaolong completed 17 dives in the South China Sea from May 31 to July 18 last year, reaching up to 3,759 meters with three crewmembers on board. It makes China the fifth country, following the US, France, Russia and Japan, to be able to send a manned dive to deeper than 3,500 meters below sea level.

Five thousand meters under sea level means China is entering the first-tier of countries in the field and its submersibles can reach more than 70 percent of the world’s ocean floor, Xu said. While 7,000 meters means theoretically “an accessibility to 99.8 percent of the world’s sea bottom.”

“Deep-sea diving is very meaningful to China,” Song Xiaojun, a military expert in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday. “China has great demand for resources and energy as its resources per capita are only half of the world average.”

“The significance of Jiaolong lies not only in the craft itself, but also the industrial ability China has – a giant industrial system supporting deep-sea operations including research and training ability,” Song noted.

“Besides, the advanced deep-sea tech will do other countries good as present fossil energy reserve can never meet the demand of global industrialization,” Song added.

Sun Zhao contributed to this story

Global Times

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