New Japanese sub expands limits of deep-sea study


TOKYO -- Japan will begin deep-sea research in the Pacific later this year using its newly developed submersible, according to a government-run research institute.

The 25-ton Shinkai (Deep Sea) 6500 will be sent into basins and trenches in the Pacific to survey the ocean bottom, the Japan Marine Science and Technology Center said.

The Shinkai 6500 reached a depth of 6,527 meters (21,539 feet) during a trial dive in August 1989 in the western Pacific. The depth set a record for manned, mobile submersibles that can operate on the sea bottom by themselves, surpassing the previous record of 6,170 meters (20,361 feet) set by the Soviet Union's submersible Mir in 1988.

The submersible, which can carry two scientists and an operator, will first do research in the Japan Trench and other basins near the Japanese archipelago where many major earthquakes have originated.

Scientists consider those points crucial in the study of large earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the center said. The mission will include setting up seismographs and magnetographs on the ocean bottom and observing geological activity.

The Shinkai 6500 will also conduct a survey in the southern Pacific from August to November in conjunction with a French deep-sea research team.

The Japanese vessel will make 30 dives in the North Fiji Basin to obtain organisms and hot-water deposits at spots where volcanic lava is gushing out of fissures.

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