China has a knack for naming their exploration vehicles. They gave the world the Shenzhou (or “divine vessels”) to reach outer space and the Taikonauts to fly them. Now China is planning an ocean exploration program ‘equally important’ to their space endeavours, including plans to build a sub-sea base station and a manned submersible capable of diving to 7000m by year 2010. So, how do you say “sea dragon” in Mandarin?
You can never have too many deep diving manned submersibles. Less than a dozen vessels I know of are capable of working beyond 1000m depth. Between the Chinese submersible, the Alvin, it’s replacement, the Russian MIRs, the French Nautile, and the Japanese Shinkai we’ll have maybe 6 manned submersibles capable of diving deep enough to explore ~90% of Earth’s seafloor as we enter the next decade. We need more.
The photo above shows the new submersible on display at the ninth China Hi-Tech Fair in October, 2007. Image from People’s Daily Online.