Challenger Deep–the deepest point in the known ocean–is in the Marianas Trench, almost seven miles below the ocean’s surface. And because it has only been reached once by a manned submersible (in 1960), Challenger Deep is catnip to ocean adventurers like Richard Branson, who plans to build a single-seater submarine to take down to the spot.
Branson isn’t the only one with a desire to reach Challenger Deep. Triton Submarines is planning the maiden dive later this month for the Triton 3300/3, a three-passenger submersible capable of reaching 3,300 feet underwater. It’s a stepping stone to the Triton 36000/3, another three-passenger submarine–one that can travel all the way to Challenger Deep.
The depths of the ocean aren’t just important for bragging rights. The creatures that live in those incredibly harsh conditions might have all sorts of things to teach us about living on an Earth ravaged by climate change, or even how to help us find ways to survive on other planets.
The Triton 3300 can’t reach the depths of the ocean by a long shot. There’s a big difference between 3,300 feet and 36,000 feet, after all. But the 3300, which will take its first dive off Port Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island later this month, will feature the largest, thickest acrylic sphere ever used in a submersible. That transparent pressure hull is similar to what will be seen in the Triton 36,000. The 36,000 will also feature a nearly identical internal chassis.
In other words, Triton’s latest $2.9 million submersible is a preview of what’s to come. While Branson’s one-seater submarine doesn’t leave much room for deep-sea spectators to travel alongside him (at least for now), the 36,000 might just allow anyone with deep enough pockets to become a deep-sea aquanaut.