March 9, 2009

China to plumb oceans’ depths

China is working on plans to send a manned submersible to what it says would be an unprecedented depth of 23,000 feet below the ocean's surface, officials say.

Sun Zhihui, director of the State Oceanic Administration, said Monday the deep-sea vehicle was built last year and testing would begin this year, Xinhua reported. The specific timetable for the test was still under discussion.

The maximum depth reached in a manned submersible so far is about 21,300 feet, the Chinese-run news agency said.

Sun said the Chinese craft is designed to carry a crew of up to three people. The crew would work on deep-sea exploration for natural resources and conduct polar research, the official said.