Thu, Sep 27, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Explorer reveals secrets to salvaging

UNDAUNTED:Hsi Shen-ming’s firm, Chuan Jih Yi, in April salvaged the remains of a Black Hawk helicopter from 1,000m underwater, posting a new depth record for Taiwan

By Huang Ming-tang  /  Staff reporter

Hsi Shen-ming (奚慎明) might not be a good swimmer nor particularly fond of the ocean, but that has not stopped him from devoting more than half of his life to exploring its depths..

The founder and general manager of Chuan Jih Yi Co, Hsi in April successfully salvaged the remains of a Black Hawk helicopter from 1,000m under the waters near Orchid Island (Lanyu, 蘭嶼), posting a new record for Taiwan as well as breaking his own record of recovering the remains of an F-16 plane from 400m underwater.

“I am not a good swimmer and have no experience in diving, but as long as there is money to be made, I will try to explore the designated area, however deep it is,” the 66-year-old said.

Born into a family of civil servants, Hsi graduated from National Chiao Tung University’s Department of Electronics Engineering.

After working at an instruments company, he founded his own company, a maritime instruments trading firm, which later expanded into the marine measurement business.

The company undertook its first underwater mission about a decade ago, when an insurance company commissioned it to find a shipwreck and take photographs of it for reference.

Using his vessel named Polaris, Hsi found the ship about 80m under the sea.

He took pictures of the sunken vessel’s name using a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) and produced a 3D model based on the data he had collected.

Aside from the ROV, the Polaris is equipped with a variety of instruments and systems for satellite and underwater positioning, magnetic survey and towed array sonar, enabling it to undertake underwater projects such as archeological excavations, seafloor surveys, tube inspections and core sample collecting.

The most difficult part in salvaging an aircraft is finding its remains, Hsi said, recalling how he had located the Black Hawk.

First, using a hydrophone, he tracked signals from the helicopter’s flight data recorder and deduced that it was about 1,000m underwater.

Next, he employed a towed array sonar to measure the helicopter and its surroundings, and used the data to produce a 3D model.

He then used an ROV to take photographs of the helicopter and dragged it back onshore with the help of a deck barge.

It is essential to grasp marine conditions for people installing underwater tubes and cables or dredging seawater, especially when there are still many unexploded bombs dropped by the US Air Force in waters around Taiwan during the Japanese occupation, Hsi said.

The most profitable domain for marine measurement is the mandatory inspections conducted prior to the installation of offshore wind turbines, he said.

Engineers have to use a variety of devices to survey the underwater geography to determine whether the seafloor is steady enough for construction, he said.

While the world’s deepest trench measures about 11,000m and the deepest one near Taiwan is about 7,000m, Hsi said the deepest he has explored is 5,000m underwater while building an earthquake warning system.

He added that he would like to explore deeper waters if given the opportunity.

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