Chinese scientists will attempt the world's deepest manned submersible dive by going 7,000 meters under the surface of the Pacific Ocean between mid-June and early July, according to the mission's leader.
An oceanographic ship carrying nearly 100 scientists and other staff is currently en route to the eastern Chinese city of Jiangyin from the port city of Qingdao.
After reaching Jiangyin, the Jiaolong, a manned submersible, is expected to leave for the Mariana Trench on June 3, said Liu Xincheng, deputy director of the Beihai branch of the State Oceanic Administration.
The vessel will return to Qingdao in mid-July.
The Jiaolong, named after a mythical sea dragon, is the world's first manned submersible designed to reach depths of 7,000 meters below sea level.
The submersible succeeded in diving 5,188 meters below sea level in the Pacific Ocean last summer, enabling China to conduct scientific surveys in 70 percent of the world's seabed areas.
However, diving for an additional 1,800 meters will put the submersible's ability to resist pressure to the test.
A roundtrip drive, including seabed operations, will take more than 10 hours, said diver Tang Jialing.
After reaching a depth of 7,000 meters, divers will test the submersible's functionality, conduct scientific research and take seabed samples.
China's deep-sea diving program is open, meaning that foreign scientists are welcome to make dives in the Jiaolong as well, Liu said.
(Xinhua News Agency May 29, 2012)