China's Manned Deep-sea Submersible Ready to Break Mariana Trench Dive Record

By Ishayat Ahmed , Jun 11, 2012 01:22 PM EDT

China's manned deep-sea submersible Jiaolong carried by the Xiangyanhong 09 ship is all set to attempt the world's first 7,000-meter dive. This dive may break the historic solo dive of James Cameron within the Mariana Trench.

The Chinese ship had left for the Mariana Trench from the port city of Jiangyin on Sunday. The manned deep-sea submersible "Jiaolong" is named after a mythical sea of dragon. China is trying to reach the depths of the world's oceans with this dive planned for mid-June or early July. There is no information about whether the Chinese government needs to ask or have already asked the permission of the U.S. government or the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) for this dive. The Mariana Trench was declared a U.S. National Marine Monument under the authority of the Antiquities Act of 1906 by U.S. President George Bush in 2009 and the Challenger Deep, the deepest known part of the world's oceans, which is located at the southern end of the Mariana Trench, lies within the territorial waters of FEM.

According to Xinhua, there will be six dives in all. Each dive will be deeper than the former with the focus on setting a new dive record at the Mariana Trench. The first dive will challenge depths of over 5,000 meters while the last two dives will challenge depths of over 7,000 meters. Each dive is scheduled to last between 8-12 hours. The dive team will "attempt the world's deepest manned submersible dive," the Xinhua said. Last July, Jiaolong had succeeded in diving 5,188 meters in the Pacific Ocean.

"The Jiaolong is the world's first manned submersible designed to reach depths of 7,000 meters below sea level," the Xinhua reported. This claim can be contested as already 2 manned dives have touched the bottom of the Challenger Deep - the first dive was in 1960 when the bathyscaphe "Trieste" touched the bottom of the Challenger Deep with U.S. Navy Lt. Don Walsh and Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard aboard, and the second was in March 2012, when renowned filmmaker James Cameron made a solo dive to the bottom in his Deepsea Challenger.

If Jiaolong attempts to dive over 7,000 meters (or about 23,000 feet) underwater, it'll be one of the deepest dives but not the deepest as Challenger Deep lies 35,755 feet below the ocean's surface. Nonetheless, Jiaolong will be creating a record of sorts as it will be carrying three scientists (Trieste carried two passengers and Deepsea Challenger carried only one).

The team of scientists will be helped by a group of 100 engineers, technicians and specialists in their dive. "The deep sea has amazing resources waiting to be discovered, such as hydrothermal sulfide and manganese nodules," Ye Cong, the lead diver on the expedition told the Chinese media.

Experts believe sea dives should be done in daylight for safety issues and done no more than three waves. "Before the formal sea dives, a comprehensive review of the submersible as well as its support system will be taken," Liu Feng, the on-scene commander told Xinhua.

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