Posted on behalf of Jane Qiu.
A week after China made history by sending astronauts to its space station, the country has celebrated another success in proving its technological prowess.
At 11 a.m. local time on Sunday, the country’s manned submersible Jiaolong successfully completed its deepest test dive yet, to 7,020 metres in the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean, reports China Daily.
China now joins an exclusive club of countries that are capable of achieving human access to the deep sea. The other countries are the United States, Russia, France and Japan. The achievement will allow China to explore more than 99.8% of the ocean floor, Liu Cigui, director China’s State Oceanic Administration (SOA), told the media.
“Jiaolong’s 7,020-metre dive is a remarkable milestone achievement,” says Jian Lin, a marine geophysicist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. “It symbolizes China’s increasing leadership in scientific exploration of the deep ocean.”
Jiaolong, named after a mythical sea dragon, is about eight metres long and weighs nearly 22 tonnes, with a crew of three. The construction of the vessel, spearheaded by SOA and the science ministry, began in 2002.
Yesterday’s dive was the fourth of six that Jiaolong is scheduled to undertake in the current expedition. During the 11-hour dive, the scientists aboard Jiaolong conducted geological surveys, took photographs and video footage and collected water, rock, sediment and animal samples.
The depth that Jiaolong reached is not the deepest place humans have ever been. But it is the deepest point achieved by any scientifically designed manned submersible. The previous record holder was Japan’s Shinkai, which can dive to a depth of 6,500 metres.
The submersible’s three-person crew can allow for a range of sophisticated scientific activities such as observations, collecting biological and geological samples, deploying instruments, and conducting experiments, says Lin.
“Jiaolong’s deep-diving capability will lead to exciting scientific discoveries in the coming years,” says Lin.