Triton Submarines have taken man to where no man has gone before...to the bottom of the ocean.
Businessman and amateur pilot, Victor Vescovo, went down to what is believed to be the deepest point of the ocean a human being has ever travelled to. Its name is the Challenger Deep, located in the Pacific Ocean at the southern end of the Mariana Trench. From surface to seabed the underwater marvel is 10,928 meters deep and is the deepest point in the Earth’s hydrosphere. The vessel would have to sustain pressure equal to 50 buses pushing down on it. Descending nearly 11km in April 2019, Vescovo now holds the record for the deepest ocean dive made by a human. What he found on the ocean floor will shock you.
Triton has recently been working on creating prototypes of submersibles that are able to withstand incredible amounts of pressure atat significant ocean depths. And they have struck gold - or should we rather say titanium - with the Triton 36000/2 Hadal Exploration Systems. They explain how the submersible came to life on their website:
“Three years ago, an American client came to us with a dream. He had climbed the seven summits, the tallest peaks on each of the seven continents, and next he wanted to dive to the deepest point in each of the five oceans. The challenge was set. Only two manned submersibles have ever dived to full ocean depth, and each made only a single dive. Could Triton design and build a submersible capable of repeat dives to the most remote, hostile and unexplored region of our planet? The answer, a resounding “yes”.”
The company spent every weekday (and probably weekends) working on designing and engineering feasibility studies of the submersible. Then, in 2016, the last design was decided upon and a manufacturer was chosen. They were off to the races.
The submersible’s alloy would be made of titanium, and surrounding the vessel, glass-bead based ‘syntactic’ foam to allow for buoyancy. The two materials are able to withstand immense pressures - whilst making enough space for two passengers. But, what made this submersible novel was the lack of welding work required. One of these submersibles can be purchased for just US $48.7 million.
Triton eventually settled on a name: The DSV (Deep Submergence Vehicle) Limiting Factor. A fully commercially accredited full ocean depth (FOD) manned submersible. And the plan was to take it on a journey that would see it visit the bottom of all the five oceans - a mission entitled Five Deeps Expedition. He has since completed four out of five of the expeditions and is to complete his mission in the Arctic Ocean in September 2019. His entire journey has been filmed and will be made into a documentary to air on Discovery networks.
Filming the documentary also required some engineering. The team had to design cameras that could sustain the pressure down at 10,000m below sea level. Unmanned vehicles would also be sent out onto the seabed to scan the surface so it could be recreated in virtual reality - which too had to be built out of the robust materials the Triton 36000/2 was made up of.
Here is a video from Triton that shows some of the engineering work around the testing of the submersible before they took on the five oceans.
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At the bottom of the Challenger Deep, Vescovo made a chilling discovery on the seafloor… plastic waste. After spending four hours hovering above the seafloor, he said he observed a plastic bag and sweet wrappers. Manmade waste was at the deepest levels of the ocean.
Nonetheless, the expedition is an amazing feat of engineering. Upon returning from the Challenger Deep expedition, Vescovo (talking to the BBC) said:
“It is almost indescribable how excited all of us are about achieving what we just did. The submarine and its mother ship, along with its extraordinarily talented expedition team, took marine technology to a ridiculously higher new level by diving - rapidly and repeatedly - into the deepest, harshest, area of the ocean.”
“Hadal Exploration System.” Triton Submarines, tritonsubs.com/hadal/.
Morelle, Rebecca. “Mariana Trench: Deepest-Ever Sub Dive Finds Plastic Bag.” BBC News, BBC, 13 May 2019, www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-48230157.