Guam – China’s state run media, Xinhua, reports that their country’s manned deep-sea submersible, the “Jiaolong” dove to a depth of 7,015 meters [23,015 feet] into the Mariana Trench Sunday, setting a new Chinese record for a manned deep sea dive.
The Chinese team has already made 3 previous dives in the area of the Challenger Deep which is the deepest known part of all the world’s oceans at a depth of 35,814 feet.
Xinhua had previously reported that the 4th dive would occur Monday. The reasons for the change of date is not clear but it comes on the same day as a Chinese space craft docked with an orbiting module.
The 3 man crew aboard the “Jiaolong” have been identified as Cui Weicheng, Ye Cong and Yang Bo.
An AFP report quotes the expeditions commander, Liu Feng as telling China TV that “This (dive) shows the performance of the submersible is stable,” and “the level of our technical personnel is getting better and better.” Experts say 7,000 metres is the limit of its design, according to the AFP report.
Xinhua has reported that the 4 dives have seen only minor technical glitches, such as an interruption in the primary communications link during the first dive, leaking hydraulic fluid and issues with the vessel’s adjustable ballast system.
On its first dive, Friday June15, the “Jialong” went down to 6,671 meters or 21,886. The submersible reached 6,965 meters or 22, 851 feet on its second dive last Tuesday June 19. And this past Friday, June 22, the “Jiaolong” stopped 7 feet short of its Tuesday record, reaching 6,963 meters or 22,844 feet.
According to Xinhua, the “Jiaolong” began its Friday decent at 7am [ChST] and spent 3 hours on the ocean floor. The vessel’s 3 man crew tried six bottom maneuvers and worked for more than three hours on the sea floor. They also collected water and sediment samples and took numerous photos of sea life at that depth. They didn’t surface until 5 pm Friday.
[L-R: The 3 divers manning the Jiaolong are Cui Weicheng, Ye Cong and Yang Bo. (Xinhua/Luo Sha)]
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told PNC News that the Chinese are diving in an area of the Mariana Trench that lies within the waters of the Federated States of Micronesia.
The Challenger Deep lies south of the U.S. administered Mariana Trench National Marine Monument, which falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Administration.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Project Leader Susan White told PNC News that they, along with the U.S. Coast Guard and NOAA are aware of the Chinese expedition and are monitoring it.