Taiwanese ship to bring back new South China Sea data

04/01/2019 09:18 PM
Photo courtesy of Taiwan Ocean Research Institute
Photo courtesy of Taiwan Ocean Research Institute

Taipei, April 1 (CNA) Taiwan's largest research vessel will bring back extensive oceanographic and meteorological data on the South China Sea when it returns to Taiwan on Tuesday after completing its first research voyage, the National Applied Research Laboratories (NARLabs) said Monday.

NARLabs' "RV Legend" will arrive at Anping Harbor in Tainan after a 25-day trip aimed at collecting data on the evolution of the sea's basin, the formation of tsunamis, and the weather of the Western Pacific Ocean, according to an NARLabs statement.

The ship collected data on the sea's mid-ocean ridge, magmatic activity, and underwater boundary between the Earth's crust and mantle that will offer "unprecedented and high-quality scientific data" on why the sea's floor stopped splitting apart some 15 million years ago, the NARLabs said.

Another aspect of the ship's research was capturing data on a 4,000-meter mountain in the middle of the ocean using a multi-beam echo sounding system that generated a digital underwater terrain model.

The model found that sediment had accumulated around the mountain from large underwater landslides, the NARLabs said, information that will not only help scientists understand how the sea's crust was formed but also predict tsunamis caused by deep-water landslides.

Meteorological research was also part of the ship's mission.

In a joint operation with Taiwanese teams on the Pratas (Dongsha) Islands and Itu Aba (Taiping Island) in the South China Sea, the ship released weather balloons and disposable temperature and depth sensors on the mid-line of the sea basin to record surface and underwater temperatures.

The results will support research on the sea's atmosphere-ocean interaction and potentially improve the accuracy of the area's weather forecasts, the NARLabs said.

The agency is ultimately hoping that the ship's research will create opportunities for Taiwan to cooperate with countries around the South China Sea on scientific projects.

The NARLabs, which is overseen by the Ministry of Science and Technology, purchased the Legend at a cost of about NT$870 million (US$28.09 million).

The ship was built in Vietnam in 2016, delivered in January 2018, and inaugurated at Kaohsiung's Banana Pier in May 2018.

The 2,629-ton Legend was procured to strengthen Taiwan's oceanography research capabilities after a 2,700-ton research vessel, the RV Ocean Researcher 5, sank in waters off Penghu in 2014.

(By Tsai Peng-min and Chi Jo-yao)


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