A manned Chinese submersible yesterday set a new record for the country’s deepest ever sea dive at 6,000m, state media said.
The Jiaolong craft descended to that depth in the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean, the first in a series of six planned dives which will culminate at 7,000m, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The vessel — named after a dragon from Chinese mythology — reached 5,188m in a Pacific dive in July last year, the previous record.
The submersible, which carried three men, reached 6,000m at around 2am GMT, nearly three hours into the dive, Xinhua said in a report on its Web site.
The deep-sea dive push comes as China prepares to launch a spacecraft — likely within days — to conduct its first manned space docking, as part of its efforts to establish a permanent space station by 2020.
Experts say China intends to use the submersible for scientific research, such as collecting samples of undersea life and studying geological structures, as well as future development of mineral resources.
However, one Chinese expert yesterday described the latest dives as an “experiment” for China and said that future use of submersibles for scientific research faced obstacles.
“Even after it reaches the 7,000m depth, it still remains a question whether it can achieve scientific purposes,” said Zhou Huaiyang, professor of the School of Ocean and Earth Sciences at Shanghai’s Tongji University.
“It will face multiple issues before it achieves scientific purposes,” he added.
The stability and durability of the craft, the proficiency of the crew and the ability of both to operate in different undersea environments were key factors for future scientific use, he said.
Energy-hungry China has previously said its submersible program is aimed at scientific research, peaceful exploration and natural resources.