A Chinese manned submersible has explored submarine turbidity currents in the disputed South China Sea. With a maximum depth of 2,980 meters, the submersible named ‘Jiaolong’ was underwater for nine hours and 54 minutes in its seventh dive in the second stage of China’s 38th ocean scientific expedition, which will last until May 13.
Three crew members in the submersible conducted surveys and sampling and measured environmental parameters, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. They brought back samples of sediment and seawater near the seabed as well as high-definition photos and video footage.
Xu Jingping, a professor with the Ocean University of China, said China started research on submarine turbidity currents, a major challenge in geoscience, relatively late. “The dive helped us obtain evidence of the topographic features and sediment of modern turbidity currents in northeastern South China Sea.
“It enriched our scientific understanding of canyon turbidity current in the region and provided key data and technical support for future research,” Xu said. Besides China, resource-rich areas in the South China Sea are claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
The 38th oceanic scientific expedition started on February 6. Jiaolong completed a dive in the northwestern Indian Ocean earlier this year as part of the first stage of the mission. It will also conduct surveys in the Yap Trench and the Mariana Trench in the third stage. Named after a mythical dragon, Jiaolong reached its deepest depth of 7,062 meters in the Mariana Trench in June 2012.