In 1992 the world undersea-research community was surprised by the news that the People’s Republic of China intended to build various types of submersibles, platforms, and the supporting infrastructure to do deep-ocean exploration for resources.
The optimistic government press releases became reality, however, with the development of the Harmony 7000 manned submersible in 2002. She was designed, built, and tested by the China Ship Scientific Research Center at Wuxi. By the time she began diving trials in 2009, she was called the Harmony; one year later she had acquired a more appropriate name, the Jiaolong (Sea Dragon).
Capable of diving to a depth of 23,000 feet, she became the world’s deepest-diving manned submersible. Previously, Japan’s Shinkai 6500 had held the record at 21,325 feet.
The U.S. Navy’s 20,000-foot capability ended when its manned submersible Sea Cliff was retired in 1998. Today the deepest U.S. diving capability is the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Alvin, which can dive to 14,700 feet. The Alvin is being upgraded over time to have a 21,325-foot depth capability.