Triton’s lineup of yacht-based submersibles is much more than the latest acquisition for the world’s superyachts.
By Capt. Ken Kreisler
It was almost 230 feet long, had a double hull, and could travel at a top speed of 50 knots. With the ability to extract sodium from seawater to energize its sodium/mercury batteries, it had unlimited access to the world’s oceans. Its crew was also able to farm all the necessary food they would need from the sea.
The adventures of Jules Verne’s Nautilus and Capt. Nemo, its enigmatic creator in his 1870 novel 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, was the stuff that dreams were made of and for me as a young boy, started a life long fascination with submarines and the undersea world.
From the images of famed ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau’s diving saucer ‘flying’ underwater to the thrilling pages of Tom Clancy’s high-tech Red October and all the other films and books I have experienced throughout the years about these amazing machines, you can imagine my delight when I pulled up to the non-descript warehouse building off of I-95 in Vero Beach, Florida, and stopped in front of a door with TRITON SUBMARINES stenciled onto the glass.
“Our product line is much more than a very expensive addition to a big yacht’s complement of equipment,” said Marc Deppe, Triton’s VP of Sales and Marketing as he took me on a tour of the manufacturing facility.
With such a complex vessel having the ability to dive to depths of 1,000-, 3,300, or an astounding 5,500-feet with up to 12 hours of operation—longer dive durations are available—we began the discussion on the subject of safety.
“The most important features are the ones that prevent any trouble from happening. The all-around viewing capability is an important factor as is the way we have engineered all of the thrusters so that they are tucked in and reset to eliminate entanglement,” said Triton President Patrick Lahey as he joined us on the production floor. Lahey, the company’s co-founder, is a 30+ year veteran of the undersea world with extensive expertise in commercial diving, design and engineering of underwater vessels and systems, and is the on-site specialist for all things Triton at the Vero Beach facility.
Starting with some basic facts about the general wellbeing of the world’s civilian submarine fleet, in 27 years and numbering some 40 vessels with almost one million participating passengers, the industry has a perfect record without serious injury or fatality. “And we take our Triton vessels even further,” said Lahey.
To that end, all Triton subs are classified ✠A1 Manned Submersible by the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS). “The paperwork for this is so arduous and comprehensive, the resulting report weighs almost as much as our 1000/3 model,” Deppe said. And while spoken in jest, as this particular Triton comes in at 14,300 pounds, his point was well taken. “Absolutely nothing is left to chance.”
For example, when Triton gets any of its certified parts, whether they are metal or not from the manufacturer, the company will then send a sample of the material out for further independent analysis, this to ensure only the most stringent and exacting specifications are met before assembly.
For the 6 ½” inch thick, 84” diameter pressure-tested, clear acrylic pressure hull, allowing the divers inside a 360º view of the undersea world, Triton went to the German-based Evonik and Heinz Fritz companies for their expertise. Evonik provides the raw materials and thermally forms the acrylic blocks into two rough hemispheres and Heinz Fritz machines, cuts the apertures, bonds, anneals, and polishes them. The result is the largest and thickest acrylic spheres made for a manned submersible.
“When you’re down there, the sphere seems to disappear and you feel as if you are just floating along,” said Deppe. Not only is the interior completely air-conditioned and temperature controlled but also, regardless of depth, the cabin remains at the same pressure as the surface. This will eliminate any chance of getting the bends or suffering from nitrogen narcosis. “We can descend and rise at any rate without concern.”
Typically, diving and surfacing is a matter of changing the water level in the variable ballast tanks. “The Triton 3300/3’s tank contains 47gl/180lt of water and can be either pumped in or out to get lighter or heavier and regulate your position in the water column. It’s slow and controlled and the Triton can power up or down or vertically with thrusters,” Deppe explained.
Variable ballast tank pump and thruster operations are power dependent and driven by electronically controlled pumps. Non-powered dependent systems can also be put into play and will push air into the main ballast tanks, giving you several thousand pounds of buoyancy to get to the surface. In addition, the two battery pods, either one or both, can be jettisoned releasing an additional 1,000 pounds. The manipulator arm can also be released.
All of Triton’s vessels have atmospheric monitoring devices for the air conditioning system, humidity, carbon dioxide, oxygen, and hydrogen—during battery charging, this gas is vented—and sensors for water intrusion in the battery compartments. Carbon dioxide scrubbers can be utilized to supply an additional 96 hours of non-powered dependent life support. “Triton submersibles have the ability to be submerged about 108 hours with emergency water and food,” remarked Deppe.
The pilot uses a three-axis joystick control and touch screen monitoring and for those models with multiple passengers, a separate control is available for guest operation. The company provides extensive training and support in getting familiar and comfortable with the systems in its simulator for hands-on instruction and diving, as well as actual on-site, open water training.
“The learning curve is not steep and is quite intuitive,” said Lahey. And while all the vessels come packed with standard features, there are a few options including sonar, USBL two-way tracking system, full spectrum Chirp color sounder/GPS, a Doppler velocity log for vertical, horizontal headings, depth, altitude, temperature, and current speed and direction, a manipulator arm, deck-mounted remote operated vehicle, and a hydrophone for listening in on ambient ocean sounds. For specialized scientific work, there is an additional list for this type of equipment. And for the ultimate option, there is even a purpose-built 65-foot Triton tender catamaran complete with launch and recovery system.
By far, the most enlightening part of my visit to Triton was left to the imagination and a sense of adventure. As both Deppe and Lahey described diving in the Antarctic, participating in the Solomon Islands deep water expedition that resulted in finding no less than 12 previously unknown species of sea life identified with the American Museum of Natural History, or with the Discovery Channel crew off the coast of Japan with noted scientists as they sought to study the elusive giant squid, my mind was filled with images of diving to depths where no light reaches but for that of the Triton’s powerful LED illumination. And then just being able to sit back and enjoy the show.
The ability of Triton Submarines to deliver far more than yet another highly identifiable piece of equipment to the superyacht sector is quite unique in the industry. This decidedly specialized vessel has the ability to provide safe and very rewarding, one-of-a-kind experiences for its owners and guests. If your adventurous spirit wants to go places where very few people can travel to, and you have the means to do so, you might very well want to consider giving Triton a call to set up a visit. If nothing else, you too will come away with visions of remarkable journeys.
For more information, please get in touch with Triton Submarines,
9015 17th Place, Vero Beach, FL 32966 USA. (772) 770-1995