China announces new submersible craft

Sept. 14, 2010 at 4:24 PM
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BEIJING, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- China says its recently announced Jiaolong submersible craft is designed to go deeper than any other in the world.

Experts say the announcement shows Beijing's intention to take the lead in exploring previously inaccessible parts of the ocean floor rich in oil, minerals and other resources China would like to mine, The New York Times reported.

"They're in it for a penny and a pound," Don Walsh, a deep-ocean diving expert who recently visited the submersible and its builders in China, said. "It's a very deliberate program."

Named after a mythical sea dragon, the Jiaolong was announced publicly last month after eight years of secretive development.

It is designed to go deeper than any other submersible currently operating in the world, giving China access to 99.8 percent of the ocean floor, the Times said.

The craft is designed to go as deep as 4.35 miles, edging out the current world leader, Japan's Shinkai, which can go down 4 miles.

Russia, France and the United States lag further behind in the game of going deep, experts say.

The United States once held the submersible lead. In 1960 Walsh, then a Navy officer, went to the ocean's deepest spot, seven miles down.

But over the decades, it has lost its edge to France, Russia and most recently Japan, the Times said.

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