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Jiaolong completes dive in South China Sea

Updated: 2013-06-18 02:23
By WANG QIAN ( China Daily)

Chinese scientists completed a dive in the Jiaolong manned submersible in the South China Sea on Monday, marking a good start to the vessel's trial mission and its first dive this year.

The Jiaolong was unloaded from the Xiangyanghong 09 oceanographic vessel and began its dive at around 10 am, returning to the vessel at around 4:30 pm.

<I>Jiaolong</I> completes dive in South China Sea

Manned submersible Jiaolong, or Sea Dragon, begins a trial mission in the South China Sea on Monday. It set a Chinese record after reaching 7,062 meters in the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench in June last year. Photo by Zhang Xudong / Xinhua

The submersible and its crew of three dove to a depth of about 1,400 meters during the dive.

The crew included Ye Cong, one of the designers of the Jiaolong and an employee of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corp; Yang Bo, a researcher from the Institute of Acoustics under Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Liu Kaizhou from the Shenyang Institute of Automation under the CAS.

Liu Feng, chief commander of the mission, said the success of the dive confirmed the submersible's ability to perform reliably.

"The discovery of multiple sea bed dwellers, such as mussels and spider crabs, will help to support further research in the South China Sea," Liu said.

In future dives, 14 scientists from various fields will study the ocean depths from the Jiaolong, said Hu Zhen, deputy chief designer of the submersible.

"Taking scientists and engineers to deep sea areas in the Jiaolong will further help us explore and protect the undersea world," Hu said.

Jin Jiancai, secretary-general of the China Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association, said the Xiangyanghong 09, the Jialong's mother ship, is expected to sail for 113 days and the mission will include three dive projects.

The mission will include experiments designed to test the Jiaolong's positioning system, as well as biological surveys and geological sampling to be conducted in the Pacific Ocean.

The first, lasting about 43 days, will be in the South China Sea, where the Jiaolong will test its performance and collect information about the waters and their influence on China's climate.

The ship will then sail to two mining areas in the Pacific Ocean for geological surveys and to collect biological and mineral samples in preparation for future mining operations.

Xu Qinan, chief designer of the submersible, said, "Jiaolong's participation in exploring strategic resources such as copper, manganese and nickel, will be important to meet China's future demand."

Scientists said the ocean depths contain various raw materials, including silver, gold, cobalt and zinc, which are usually found in higher concentrations than in terrestrial mines.

China has held exploration rights to raw minerals in two areas of the Pacific since 2001. These will be a target for the Jiaolong in the future dives, according to Liu Feng.

The Jiaolong set a new dive record after reaching a depth of 7,062 meters in the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench in June last year.

The current mission marks the start of a five-year trial period for the Jiaolong before it goes into regular operation.

Xinhua contributed to this story.