Stepping off a yacht and diving in a transparent submarine to the depths of the ocean might sound like an elaborate scene from a James Bond film.
But in the real world, thanks to recent technological advancements, such underwater adventures are now very much a possibility, if you have millions to spare.
US-based luxury submersible company Triton Submarines has delivered the first six-person acrylic-hulled submarine to dive to 1,000 meters in a game-changing step for submarine tourism (3,280 feet).
A view like never before
Described as a “salon under the sea,” Triton 3300/6 has the largest transparent, spherical passenger compartment in the world, which has a diameter of 2.5 meters, providing those on board with an immersive underwater view. The air-conditioned sub has a top speed of three knots and enough air and battery for undersea excursions lasting more than 10 hours.
While it took two-years to build, Patrick Lahey, president of Triton Submarines says it’s taken a decade to get to a point where it was possible to build a sphere of this scale.
“It’s a very exciting development, because we’ve now proven that we can produce vehicles that will carry six people to a 1,000 meters. But we’re not stopping there. We’re working on a vehicle that will carry three people to 7,500 feet and we’re continuing with a vehicle that will dive to 4,000 meters and carry two people in an even thicker haul. So it’s an exciting time that we’re living in,” he added.
Over the years, demand for submersibles has risen dramatically, with more and more owners of mega-yacht owners seeking out the vessels as a means of entertaining family and friends while at sea.
Experts points out that while carrying a tank and climbing down a ladder requires a certain level of physical capability, diving in a submersible “is like sitting in your living room. You don’t have to be like a navy seal to go diving in a sub,” they said.
In April, Triton delivered a 24-seater submersible Triton DeepView 24 to Vietnamese resort Vinpearl, which plans to offer excursions around the Hon Tre Island in Nha Trang, indicating that a commercial submarine tourism industry could be emerging.
A number of cruise ship companies have also been investing in subs including Asia’s Genting Cruise Lines which has at least four ships equipped with submarines supplied by Dutch company U-Boat Worx.
Hard on the pockets
While this is an encouraging sign, it seems unlikely that those of us who aren’t billionaires will be able to share in the experience any time soon due to the “arduous, time-consuming and very expensive process” involved in building a vessel that’s fully accredited. “It’s a process that takes a lot of time and requires a lot of work and expense,” Mr. Lahey explains.
“But we are absolutely committed to delivering subs that are fully accredited. We don’t build experimental vehicles.”
All Triton submarines are hand built using premium-grade “optically-perfect” acrylic to achieve the clearest views. Most are delivered within a year, but a completely new model that requires development can take up to 24 months.
The company is currently working on orders for both a seven and a nine-seater vessel.
The capabilities of submersibles like Triton 3300/6 has led to many discoveries, such as new species being identified.
Meanwhile, owners who originally bought their subs for recreational purposes are now using them to complete marine research, a development, Mr. Lahey imagines it happening. “Human-occupied vehicles are really a great way to create advocacy in the ocean,” he adds. “When you dive in a sub it changes your perception of the ocean forever.”