HK Standard ：Science team to probe the depths
HK Standard, 27 January 2014
An international team of scientists will explore the South China Sea in a two-month research mission.
The team comprises 31 scientists from 10 countries and eight areas. Twelve are mainlanders while one, originally from China, now works at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
The mission will conduct coring of sediments above the deep sea basin and extract samples of basement rocks aboard the US scientific ocean drilling vessel Joides Resolution.
The aim is to determine the age of the South China Sea, how the opening of the sea has affected the tectonic and environmental evolution of East Asia and to study deep-sea activity.
The vessel will sail from Hong Kong tomorrow and return to Taiwan on March 30.
The chief scientist of the mission, Lin Jian, said it was very important to determine the Cenozoic history of the South China Sea because studying the past will help to predict the future.
Another objective is to study Cenozoic mechanism, timings, sequences, affiliations of sea floor spreading, as well as the oceanic crustal accretion and mantle evolution, Lin said.
Results will also help predict earthquakes and climate change, Lin added.
The vessel will drill in three locations in the sea and collect basalt samples from 4,000-meter depths in the sea for the first time in history.
Wang Pinxian, a well-known ocean and geography scientist in the mainland who took part in a similar mission in 1999, said this mission not only improves the depth from 2,000m to 4,000m, but also increases the number of Chinese scientists to 13 from three.
One of the reasons for that is that China increased the fee for research to 3 million yuan (HK$3.85 million) per year, plus subsidy of 6 million yuan, he said.
Wang said the mission is an international cooperation that could also help relieve the tensions in the South China Sea, adding that there is a Philippines scientist on board.
He said China plans to build its own ocean drilling vessel with more advanced equipment.