Bubble Subs Emerge, and Sink to New Depths


Kelly Downey, a spokesman for Triton, said the company had just received its first order but could not disclose the buyer’s name. She said the bubble, which will have walls five inches thick, will dive to 1,650 feet, about a third of a mile deep.

In April, Victor L. Vescovo, a wealthy investor, piloted a Triton vehicle nearly seven miles down into the Challenger Deep, the deepest fissure on Earth. Five feet in diameter, made of titanium, a superstrong metal, and featuring three portholes the size of dinner plates, the vehicle was a new variation on an old theme.

The Triton brochure also offers a vision of the bubble future: a vehicle with a “completely transparent pressure hull” that could reach the bottom of the Challenger Deep. In the interview, Mr. Lahey, the company’s president, said the colossal pressures at that depth would crush plastic and that the sphere would have to be made of superstrong glass.

“We’d have to spend a long time and a lot of energy to show it’s suitable,” he said of a bubble made of glass. “But it would be fantastic.”

Triton has also proposed building an undersea luxury resort called Poseidon. It would sit at the bottom of a lagoon in Fiji next to a coral reef and feature 24 guest rooms — not bubbles but domes made of plastic.

The rise of bubble subs promises to pay exploratory dividends for decades to come. “Regardless of the driver,” said Dr. Robison of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, “whether it’s rich guys with yachts or scientists with instruments, the fact that the technology is evolving means it’s going to be much easier to do this kind of research in the future.”

Graham Hawkes, the bubble designer who introduced Dr. Robison to the deep panoramic view in the 1980s, “said it was going to change everything, and he was right,” Dr. Robison said.



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