China developing manned submersible capable of reaching the bottom of any ocean

Vessel is being built by company that developed the Jiaolong, which took a crew two-thirds the way down the Mariana Trench is 2012

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 6:28pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 11:43pm

China is developing a manned submersible that can take a crew to the bottom of any ocean on earth, according to China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), the maker of the Jiaolong, the country’s first manned deep-sea submersible, Science and Technology Daily ­reported on the weekend.

If successful, the project would be another big step forward in the country’s quest to explore undersea resources and help it catch up with US technology.

The Jiaolong set a national record in June 2012 by reaching a depth of 7,062 metres in the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench.

Rush for resources drives China’s ‘three-deep’ science quest

By being able to dive to such depths, the vessel can conduct research and exploration on 99.8 per cent of the world’s seafloors.

CSIC deputy general manager Shao Kaiwen said the company had a raft of deep-sea equipment projects on its books, including manned submersibles capable reaching all sea floor.

Other projects to be developed this year include a manned submersible that can reach a depth of 4,500 metres. It is in its final assembly and testing stage.

This submersible will have five observatory windows that let scientists observe the surroundings from different angles. Its manned cabin has three seats, like the Jiaolong, with extra space for the other crew.

How it works: Inside the Jiaolong

Meanwhile, a CSIC subsidiary is building a mothership, with a displacement of about 4,000 tonnes, for the Jiaolong. That vessel is expected to enter service in March 2019.

The mainland has made huge progress in deep-sea technology, driven by its hunger for resources.

To secure supplies, the Ministry of Land and Resources said in a strategic plan released in September that it would to boost “deep-underground, deep-sky and deep-sea” capabilities in the next five years.

The plan’s tasks include developing a submersible that technically could survive the staggering pressures found at 11,000 metres – the depth of Challenger Deep at the bottom of the Mariana Trench – by 2020.

China’s deep-sea mission to mine the wealth beneath the ocean floor

The Jiaolong, carrying three crew, carried out its mission on June 19, 2012 and returned with samples of water and sea life.

Besides China, only the United States, France, Russia and Japan have produced manned submersibles capable of reaching depths of 6,000 metres.