The robotic arm of a manned vehicle named after a mythical sea dragon has planted the Chinese flag in a secret location on the energy-rich and strategic South China seabed. China is now the fifth nation to successfully test this deep-sea diving technology.
China’s submersible, a 22-tonne and eight-metre-long submarine-like craft supported by a bigger vessel, is designed to scour the seabed 7,000 metres deep --- outpacing the technology of the US, France, Russia and Japan. Japan’s submersible is designed to dive 6,500 metres below sea. The Jiaolong has hit a depth of 3,759 metres in 17 dives from May to July this summer, eight years after technologists from 100 institutions and companies began the programme. Beijing’s science and technology ministry and the state oceanic administration announced the breakthrough only this week.
The state media said the technology is designed to search for new energy resources and rare earth. China is designing a nearly 73 million-dollar oceanic research base and support station for the submersible in the eastern port of Qingdao.
“As the world’s first manned vehicle designed to reach 7,000 meters below sea level, the submersible can be used in 99.8 per cent of the world’s sea areas,” chief designer Xu Qinan told the Chinese media. “It represents the most advanced technology in deep-sea exploration. Each part of the submersible passed the pressure test of 7,000 meters, and in future we'll carry out 5,000-meter and 7,000-meter tests.”
The Jiaolong holds a crew of three , if two crouch and one sits. “The air pressure in the cabin is the same as on the surface. I felt excited and nervous every time I went deep underwater,” crewmember Ye Cong told the media. Ye added that the vehicle is easy to maneuver. The vehicle operated underwater for nine hours and three minutes and beamed videos and photographs of the seabed.