Jiaolong, 蛟龙, in Chinese folklore, is a shape-shifting water dragon. For several months this summer the Chinese government has been quietly testing a new submersible, named Jiaolong, designed to dive to 7,000 meters. If successful, it will be the deepest diving submersible in the world, diving deeper than the Japanese Shinkai 6500, which can dive to 6,500 meters and the American submersible Alvin which can dive to 4,500 meters.
China Explores a Frontier 2 Miles Deep
The global seabed is littered with what experts say is trillions of dollars’ worth of mineral nodules as well as many objects of intelligence value: undersea cables carrying diplomatic communications, lost nuclear arms, sunken submarines and hundreds of warheads left over from missile tests.
While a single small craft cannot reel in all these treasures, it does put China in an excellent position to go after them.
“They’re in it for a penny and a pound,” said Don Walsh, a pioneer of deep-ocean diving who recently visited the submersible and its makers in China. “It’s a very deliberate program.”
The small craft that made the trip — named Jiaolong, after a mythical sea dragon — was unveiled publicly late last month after eight years of secretive development. It is designed to go deeper than any other in the world, giving China access to 99.8 percent of the ocean floor.