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China Science

Chinese Submersible Planning For Record Dive 69

Posted by Soulskill
from the under-miles-of-water dept.
An anonymous reader writes "You may have heard that China sent a manned research sub down to the ocean deep this summer, marking a personal depth record of 5,000 meters (next year it will aim for a world record of 7,000 meters). Here's a story about the sub based on an interview with its designer in Wuxi, China. It's got some interesting new details: the designer had never actually seen a submersible before he set out to build the deepest diving research sub in the world; all the stuff he's built before has ended up in warehouses because the Chinese government only funded technological development, not use."
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Chinese Submersible Planning For Record Dive

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  • A little late ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BitZtream (692029) on Friday September 02, 2011 @10:54AM (#37286552)

    he set out to build the deepest diving research sub in the world;

    Someone should point out that he's a few years late to the race, Trieste did it in the 60s. The record is almost 11k meters in my world, not sure what they are talking about at 7k

    I guess perhaps we have completely different definition of 'research' or something.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bathyscaphe_Trieste [wikipedia.org]

    • Re:A little late ... (Score:5, Informative)

      by FhnuZoag (875558) on Friday September 02, 2011 @11:03AM (#37286682)
      Well, the wikipedia for the Shinkai 6500 (whose record these guys are specifically trying to beat) explains: "The only manned expedition to have gone deeper was the dive of the Trieste bathyscaphe in 1960. However, the vessel could not navigate along the bottom of the sea bed." So that's the difference.
      • by jpmorgan (517966)

        Except, the Trieste could. It wasn't fast: only 4hp with a maximum speed of 1 knot, but it still could.

      • Re:A little late ... (Score:4, Informative)

        by BitZtream (692029) on Friday September 02, 2011 @02:44PM (#37289550)

        You should actually look up the Trieste and get some factual information.

        It most certainly could navigate on its own, and did. Do you think the propulsion system built on it was there for looks? Like spoilers on a Toyota Camry or something? The Trieste was used to hunt for the USS Thresher submarine after it was lost ... do you think they just sunk to the bottom, looked around in the 10 square meters of ocean floor they could view, rose back to the surface, had someone drag them over a few meters and did it all over again ... with no station keeping to actually make sure they weren't drifting on the way down and actually looking at the same spot?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Thresher_(SSN-593) [wikipedia.org]

        And to counter some of the other statements being made, the Trieste was not attached to a surface ship during its dive, only when it was taken off the deck of the surface ship and lowered into the water, and then again when it was picked up and put back on the surface ship. At all times while it was submerged Trieste was completely on its own power, life support and navigation. Should it have 'sunk', they would not be able to 'reel it in' as it wasn't connected.

        From the link I pasted originally:

        The Trieste consisted of a float chamber filled with gasoline for buoyancy, with a separate pressure sphere. This configuration (dubbed a bathyscaphe by the Piccards), allowed for a free dive, rather than the previous bathysphere designs in which a sphere was lowered to depth and raised from a ship by cable.

        Sorry Chinese dudes, the record will always be held by a little Belgium built ship named Trieste, occupied by its designer and an American Navy officer. Unless they find a new deep spot in the ocean or an unexplored cave, both of which are highly unlikely.

      • by Solandri (704621)
        It's counterproductive to design a research sub with the capability to dive past about 6500 meters (which the Shinkai 6500 can do). That's deep enough to reach about 98% of the ocean's floor [mnn.com]. Anything significantly beyond that and you're adding excess weight and strength which will only be useful if you've visiting a few trenches. For studying the rest of the ocean, it's just useless baggage. You're better off designing one general-purpose DSV for research in the majority of the ocean, and another one s
    • by Shoten (260439)

      Haven't you heard? The Chinese have mandated a new industry standard for "meters"; companies that fail to establish interoperability with the new standard will be barred from doing business in China :)

      And anyways, it seems to me that the record shouldn't be for how deep you dive...but from how deep you manage to make it back up...anyone can get to the bottom of the Marianas Trench...it's easy! {straps on weights and jumps over the side of the boat to prove his point}

    • I think the difference is between the nature of a bathyscaphe vs. a full-fledged submarine. Presumably is doesn't have to be tied to anything to operate and will have greater ability for independent motion. So, yes, they won't be the first people to reach the depth, but will be the first people to reach that depth in the specific manner inherent to the device used.
      • by roothog (635998)

        A bathyscaphe isn't tethered to anything either. (You're thinking of a bathysphere.)

    • In other news, after the accusations of using Top Gun footage to demonstrate the supposed Chinese super-plane, the Xinhua News Agency is rumoured to be already working on excuses for why their submarine newscasts look suspiciously like something from The Hunt For Red October. Several party spokespersons are rumored to be practicing in advance saying "No, it's not like that, captain Wang Hung Lo just happens to look exactly like Sean Connery" with a straight face ;)

    • by tokul (682258)

      I guess perhaps we have completely different definition of 'research' or something.

      It is about navigation at max depth. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DSV_Shinkai_6500 [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Kjella (173770)

      The difference is that it's a bathyscaphe, not a submarine. A bathyscaphe is basically loaded down with weights to reach the bottom, then drops the weights to rise back up. It can't control its buoyancy by adjusting pressure tanks - it's simply straight down, straight up. So yeah, they're way too late to set any records for first people to go that deep but it's still something not done before.

      • by jpmorgan (517966)

        "Bathyscaphe" is just another word for a very deep sea submarine. Here is how DSV Alvin's ballast works:

        The 4 sets of steel weights that are added to the submersible before each dive are known as "fixed buoyancy points." Once on the bottom, the pilot "drops" a predetermined amount of weight (1, 2, or 3 sets) in an attempt to achieve neutral buoyancy. Each of these weight sets provide a 208-lb. "step" in buoyancy.

        This is where the variable ballast system comes into play. Unlike the main ballast, the tanks of the variable ballast system are independent of the outside pressure, which, at 2500m (8250ft) equals 3695psi (pounds per square inch) or 230 atmospheres (pressure at the surface is 14.7 psi or 1 atmosphere). The pilot can "fine-tune" the submersible to achieve and maintain neutral buoyancy during the dive by adjusting the amount of water in the variable ballast tanks. The amount of water in the variable ballast can be adjusted in 1-lb. increments to allow for buoyancy corrections between the 208-lb. "steps" of the steel weights. In particular, as the dive progresses, the submersible gets colder and "shrinks"; therefore, although it weighs the same, the "smaller" submersible displaces less water and becomes negatively buoyant. Removing water from the variable ballast tanks corrects this displacement and allows the submersible to remain neutral.

        To leave the bottom at the end of the dive, the pilot releases the remaining sets of steel weights. This causes the submersible to become positively buoyant; it floats upward. As the submersible nears the surface, the pilot can "blow" air into the main ballast tanks to "add" buoyancy and aid in the ascent.

        http://www.marinetech.org/nine_degrees/expedition.php?phase=log&date=942912000&base=expo942864462&picnum=0#ballast [marinetech.org]

        As a general rule ultra-deep sea submarines don't use the kind of air-vented ballast tanks you're thinking of because the pressure is too great at the bottom. You put an ordinary pressure cylinder on board and instead of air rushing out, the water will rush in when you open the va

    • There is a comment after the story about this:

      Trieste was a bathyscape--it was lowered on a cable from a ship and brought back up.

      Jiaolong, Shinkai and Alvin are all free-diving submersibles.

      • by fnj (64210)

        Wrong. A bathysphere is lowered on a cable. A bathyscaphe (sp) is free diving and navigable.

    • he set out to build the deepest diving research sub in the world;

      Someone should point out that he's a few years late to the race, Trieste did it in the 60s. The record is almost 11k meters in my world, not sure what they are talking about at 7k

      I guess perhaps we have completely different definition of 'research' or something.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bathyscaphe_Trieste [wikipedia.org]

      So, more Chinese propaganda or is the author so stupid they couldn't use google or both?

    • In all of the articles that I have read, it has always been referred to as the deepest operational sub. Key word being operational.
      Trieste’s bathyscaphe did go deeper – but it’s not operational any more.
      The China’s sub should be able to dive deeper then Alvin – which is currently the deepest diving sub that is operational. I think Alvin II is coming out in a few years – but even that one is not designed to go as deep.

      Talk about sitting on one’s laurels.

  • by decipher_saint (72686) on Friday September 02, 2011 @10:56AM (#37286578) Homepage

    Was set by the Trieste on January 23, 1960 at a depth of 10,911 meters (35,797 ft).

    • Trieste was kind of like a big tank of petrol with a sphere at the bottom called a "bathyscaphe", while technically a self-propelled submersible, it was extremely limited in thrust and manoeuvrability due to huge bulk and extremely limited room for power plant, control surfaces etc. In fact, it pretty much limited to going down then up. Currently the deepest diving real submersible is Shinkai 6500, which true to its name, can dive to 6500m, explore the ocean floor under its own power for a week or so and as
    • by Syberz (1170343)
      The Trieste wasn't autonomous however, it was a batiscaphe that was lowered and raised on a cable. The Shinkai and the chinese sub are actual submarines that can move on their own at the bottom.
      • The Trieste wasn't autonomous however, it was a batiscaphe that was lowered and raised on a cable.

        Umm, no. Trieste was lowered into the water from its tender by a cable, but the cable was released before it dove. Hence the need for a sonar/hydrophone voice system to communicate with the surface, rather than a telephone line in the (nonexistent) cable.

        The Shinkai and the chinese sub are actual submarines that can move on their own at the bottom.

        Sort of like the Trieste, you mean? Which could move at (th

  • World record set by Chinese government? http://geology.com/records/bathyscaphe-trieste.shtml [geology.com]

    • To be fair, it's a personal depth record of that particular submersible.

      Still, pretty cool, lots of stuff to see down there still I bet.

      • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Friday September 02, 2011 @11:06AM (#37286728) Homepage Journal

        To be fair, it's a personal depth record of that particular submersible.

        The Titanic set a depth record for that particular ship as well.
      • by roothog (635998)

        Well, the summary also references breaking a "world record" of 7000m, which isn't at all accurate.

        • by Lando (9348)

          It appears to have come from TFA which is slightly misleading. I think the article should have been a little more clear in that It appears it will be the deepest current commercial vehicle in operation. The trieste was owned by the US government for governmental purposes and not for commercial purposes as this vehicle is, ie the search for mineral exploration. Still that being the case, the article itself seems to be very misleading.

    • by Lando (9348)

      Oh, yeah I believe everything he has done has been so fantastic in the past that the government had to hide it, oops my bad, mothballed it because it was research not production.

      • by Lando (9348)

        And just to throw more wood on the fire, James Cameron is planning to go to the bottom of the see as well. Now, if it were just some random bloke, I might say yeah right, but seeing as he actually done things like going to the Titanic to look around, I'm a bit more inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt than some random national propaganda piece with credentials as impeccable as having fantastic designs that worked but where never used.

        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1312406/Into-dead [dailymail.co.uk]

  • Do I really need to say more? We all know this is how it's going to end. Either that, or it's all a complete fiction; there's precedent for that, too.
  • Chinese might not be the first to put a man on the moon, but they might be the first to put a man on the bottom of the sea
    - Wait.. No, the Italians beat them to it.

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