July 21, 2011

China Takes Submarine To New Depths

A Chinese submarine performed the country's deepest manned dive ever on Thursday, completing a milestone for China's deep-sea ambitions.

The State Oceanic Administration said in a statement that the Jiaolong undersea craft reached 13,211-feet below sea level in a test dive in the northeastern Pacific.

"The success of this test dive has laid a solid foundation for completing the mission of diving to 5,000 meters (16,404-feet)," it said.

The submarine carried three people in Thursday's journey and will attempt to reach 16,404-feet in another dive on Friday.

China has been developing its technical capabilities in recent decades, exemplified by a fast-growing space program that made China the third nation to conduct manned space flight in 2003.

The state news agency Xinhua quoted the administration's director Li Cigui as saying the vessel was a "marvel" of Chinese engineering.

The submarine is designed to reach a maximum depth of about 23,000-feet and in a dive in the South China Sea last year it made China only the fifth country to go deeper than the 11,500-feet mark.

The U.S. Navy conducted the deepest dive ever, which reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench.  This area of the ocean is the deepest point in the world's oceans and is 36,089-feet.

China said its development of submarine technology is aimed at scientific research and the peaceful exploration and use of natural resources.

However, during the vessel's dive to the bottom of the disputed South China Sea last year, it planted a Chinese flag in the seafloor in what was seen by some as a provocative act.

The South China Sea is claimed in whole or in part by China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia.

Scientists believe the ocean's floors contain rich deposits of a range of potentially valuable minerals, which adds more fuel to the debate of who owns the waters.

The Xinhua news agency quoted officials saying the Jiaolong's crew would conduct tests in the Pacific, including taking photos, shooting video, surveying seabeds and taking samples from the ocean floor.

Xinhua said China would also examine sites for a potential future test dive to its maximum depth of about 23,000 feet.


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