If you’re feeling a bit disoriented, that’s perfectly normal. We haven’t quite reached the crossover point where Capt. Nemo’s sub Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea becomes reality in the world of submersibles, but it sure does feel like we’re starting to get close.
Recent months have seen two of the world’s premier builders of submersibles—Triton Submarines in Florida and U-Boat Worx in the Netherlands—unveil submersible designs that can go deeper, hold more people and include more features than ever before. The new models are expanding everyone’s ideas about what is possible for undersea research, entertainment and just plain having fun while exploring underneath the yacht. Some of the designs look more like underwater laboratories or cruise ships than what we’ve come to expect from submarine launches in the recent past. Others are being purpose-built by owners with specific ideas about how they want to interact with the undersea environment.
The most surprising design is the Under Water Entertainment Platform, which U-Boat Worx unveiled in May. The UWEP can hold as many as 120 people in a 1,600-square-foot space, operating at depths of more than 650 feet, running nonstop for 24 hours. The platform is big enough to, say, create an underwater gym, casino or restaurant.
“The UWEP will shake up both the submarine and hospitality industry, and lead the way in bespoke underwater events,” U-Boat Worx CEO Bert Houtman says. “We will not only present a stellar experience for the most discerning clientele, but also a business opportunity that will benefit entrepreneurs and contribute to our understanding of the oceans.”
Contributing to our understanding of the oceans is also a driving force behind recent innovations at Triton Submarines, where the 7500/3 Aurelia began sea trials in May. It’s able to carry three passengers to depths of 7,500 feet and will be part of the research program aboard the 600-foot exploration vessel REV Ocean, joining that boat’s existing submersible, Aurora. Triton says that Aurelia is the world’s deepest-diving three-person acrylic submersible.
“With both Aurelia and Aurora now in service, we have the best tag team in the world for conducting cutting-edge ocean science, education and communications,” REV Ocean’s CEO Nina Jensen says.
Triton also announced in May that, following a pandemic delay, its DeepView 24 submersible is now open to the public ($60 per adult, $40 per child) for 30-minute dives in Vietnam, in what the company is calling the most significant commercial-tourism submersible launch of the past two decades. That sub can dive to more than 300 feet and will bring guests up close to shipwrecks, marine life and a “dive show.”
For yacht owners who might be thinking about adding similar experiences to their personal or charter programs, Triton also recently announced a partnership with Shadowcat to create a 78-foot catamaran support yacht that can carry a Triton 3330/3 submersible.
“Clients around the world can now enjoy the simplicity, elegance, excitement and safety of exploring the ocean in a Triton submersible supported by a craft that can be operated affordably, but with absolutely no compromises in terms of its capacity to do the job it was built for,” says Patrick J. Lahey, president of Triton Submarines.
At the same time, U-Boat Worx is pushing forward with its flagship Nexus series, which includes nine- and seven-person models. The Nexus can dive to more than 650 feet and, according to the company, has 25 percent more interior space than competing models. Lithium-ion batteries let the sub operate for as long as 18 hours, performing as many as 10 dives per day. For guest comfort during entry and exit, the Nexus has what U-Boat Worx says is the largest hatch ever incorporated into the design of a submersible this size.
“For passengers of all ages, the entire boarding process has been streamlined, in keeping with U-Boat Worx’s vision that everyone should be able to experience the oceans in a safe and comfortable manner,” the company stated when announcing the new model.
That’s quite an ambitious thought, given that it wasn’t until 2007 when the first submersible was carried aboard a yacht. It was a Triton 1000/2 aboard the 164-foot Trinity Mine Games, and it was heralded as a uniquely adventurous experience for anyone lucky enough to charter the yacht. Here we are, just 15 years later, talking about $60 rides for the general public and underwater promotional events for new products.
Will it really be that long before somebody decks out a sub similar to what Jules Verne described in 20,000 Leagues? A common room that doubles as a museum can’t be too far off, filled with cases for the display of marine animals, shells and other finds.
Built for REV Ocean
The Triton 7500/3 was built for REV Ocean, a 600-foot vessel that’s used for research, exploration and charter. Aurelia, as this Triton 7500/3 is christened, is equipped with science sampling, storage, recording and filming equipment. It will be launched and recovered from the mothership with a 12-ton A-frame crane, which, in itself, is designed to be strong enough to lift the sub while its crew complement of three people is still on board.
A Sub By Any Other Name…
A public competition was held to decide the name of the new sub aboard REV Ocean. The winner was Ivar Ruijten of the Netherlands, who suggested Aurelia because it means gold or “the golden one” (from the Latin aurum) and because Aurelia aurita is a common moon jellyfish that crew are likely to see through the sub’s glass.