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China Sets National Deep Dive Record

Three Chinese in a submersible craft achieved the deepest ocean dive in their country's history today (July 21), state officials announced.

The record-breakers descended to 13,211 feet (4,027 meters) in the northeastern Pacific Ocean in the Jiaolong, a craft named for a mythical sea dragon and hailed by state officials as a "marvel" of Chinese engineering, Agence France-Presse reported.

"The success of this test dive has laid a solid foundation for completing the mission of diving to 5,000 meters," or 16,400 feet, China's State Oceanic Administration said in a statement.

Officials will attempt the deeper dive tomorrow, AFP reported. The Jiaolong is designed to sustain dives as deep as nearly 23,000 feet (7,000 meters).

The record for the deepest manned dive ever , set in 1960, remains unchallenged. That year the U.S. Navy sent two men in a submersible to the bottom of the Mariana Trench; at 36,200 feet (11,030 meters) below the surface of the western Pacific Ocean, it is the deepest spot on Earth more than a mile deeper than Mount Everest is tall.

Navy Lt. Don Walsh and Swiss scientist Jacques Piccard, spent 20 minutes parked on the ocean floor in the Trieste, a submersible designed by Piccard's father.

Even before today's dive, the Jiaolong was famous. The 27-foot (8.2 meters) vessel dove to the bottom of the South China Sea last year, making China only the fifth country in history to send a vessel below 11,500 feet (3,500 meters).

Yet the dive was controversial. The divers planted a Chinese flag on the seafloor, a move some saw as a provocative act aimed at staking a claim over natural resources in the region. China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia all have made territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Recently, private industry has waded into the deep-sea exploration game. British tycoon Richard Branson has announced plans to send humans to the five deepest spots on the planet within the next several years.

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