After years of mostly being ignored, the Mariana Trench has become a busy place this year. A Chinese submersible named Jiaolong (aquatic dragon) is set to make another dive into the trench sometime in the next few days, where its crew of three hopes to plummet 7000 meters (22,965 ft) below the surface of the ocean. To date, the vessel has only been down to about 5188 meters (17,020 ft).
As of the last report, the small craft was still aboard the Xiangyanghong 09 science vessel and was approximately 200 nautical miles away from the proposed dive site. The crew was waiting for a tropical storm to vacate the area, and for seas to calm, before proceeding with the operation. They intend to make a shake-down dive to 5000 meters (16,404 ft) before proceeding deeper towards their ultimate goal.
This deep sea expedition is vastly different from the one James Cameron made back in March. For starters, Cameron went down solo and in a smaller vehicle. The Jiaolong will be manned by Ye Cong, Cui Weicheng and Yang Bo who are hoping to claim a “deepest dive” record, although what that record is I’m not sure. When he went down a few months back, Cameron reached a depth of about 10,940 meters (35,900 ft).
Still it is great to see more renewed interest in exploring the ocean’s depths and I’ll be watching to see how this crew fairs when it finally does make its big dive. Hopefully all will go well and they’ll come back with some interesting finds as well.
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