The Triton test chambers in Barcelona are in continuous service because, for every two dives completed on the viewport test fixture in the chamber, the submersible is permitted to make a single dive in the ocean. Although Triton has already completed hundreds of cyclic tests on the viewport fixture, eventually thousands of cycles will be made to ensure the submersible will have a life expectancy measured in decades of service and thousands of dives to hadal depths. The potential for ongoing discoveries in the deepest and most remote parts of our world’s ocean is very exciting and completely unprecedented.
Triton is also making their pressure testing facilities available to client companies, with a recent project involving Omega’s Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep Pro timepieces, which not only underwent scrutiny in the chamber but also adorned the submersible manipulator arm and landers during the record-breaking dives in Challenger Deep. Just three of these timepieces exist.
Scientific Mission: The Landers
To achieve precise navigation in the hadal zone, the HES employs three autonomous landers. Each lander measures 1,000 × 1,500 × 1,800 mm, and they are named Skaff, Closp, and Flere. “The naming of the vessels is a tip of the hat to both author Iain Banks and his ‘Culture’ series of sci-fi novels, as well as to Mr. Musk, who is sending things up via his firm SpaceX, while we are sending things down. I decided to draw on the Culture series in naming the vessels of the Five Deeps Expedition,” says Vescovo. Acoustic modems on the landers allow the Triton 36000/2 to range between them, thus triangulating its own position.
The landers are also equipped with an array of scientific instruments that effectively document numerous measurements and collect samples for the scientific team’s analysis. Flere and Skaff both feature a rack of six push core samplers, while Closp has an autonomous motor-driven corer. They have all recovered valuable geological, sedimentary, and biological fauna samples from each of the Five Deeps. Autonomous science gear includes conductivity, temperature, and depth sensors and Niskin water sampling devices to record and sample the hydrographic conditions throughout the entire water column. Meanwhile, time-lapse cameras record the presence and behavior of large mobile fauna on a baited frame while crustacean and fish traps enable the capture of animals.
Critical to determining where to dive, the Five Deeps Expedition used a state-of-the-art Kongsberg EM124 Multi-Beam Echo Sounder (MBES) for precise mapping of the ocean floor, even to FOD. Arguably the most advanced MBES currently available on any civilian vessel, the EM124 produced digital 3D renderings of the sea floor that were used to identify and verify the deepest point in the trench by an international team of sonographers and oceanographic scientists. During the expedition, the EM124 clarified inaccuracies in documented depths and created the most accurate recorded charts of each of the dive sites visited. All data collected during the Five Deeps Expedition has been donated to the GEBCO Seabed 2030 initiative. Over 750,000 km2of ocean bottom were mapped during the Five Deeps Expedition at unprecedented levels of accuracy and in many cases for the first time ever in these remote hadal trenches.
In Profundo: Cognito
With the Five Deeps Expedition now successfully concluded, focus turns to the future of the HES, currently being marketed for $50.5 million (USD). As a proven reliable platform for adventure, discovery, exploration, and scientific research, the owner and builder’s preference would be that it remains within the international research community to continue advance our understanding of the deep ocean. As the Five Deeps Expedition slogan “In Profundo: Cognito” states, “In the deep: knowledge.” The HES undoubtedly has potential in other disciplines, however, as Dive 3 into Challenger Deep proved.
Following the conclusion of Dive 2, the submersible and two landers returned to the surface. After several nervous hours, it became clear the third lander, Scaff, with the priceless Omega watches strapped on, was trapped in the soft bottom sediment of the trench. During that evenings briefing, Expedition Leader Rob McCallum, suggested: “Well, we have the only vehicle in the world capable of retrieving it. Let’s go again.” The dive plan for Dive 3 was quickly reconfigured; the Triton 36000/2 dived again to 10,927 m, navigated to the spot, located the lander, and used the Kraft manipulator arm to dislodge Scaff for an unhindered returned to the surface. The world’s deepest salvage mission? Tick.
Following the completion of five dives to FOD in 10 days, Rob McCallum of EYOS Expeditions, whose company is managing the expedition, said: “It has been a monumental time for ocean exploration; we have broken world records and achieved a number of world firsts, but most importantly, we have opened the door to the final frontier—the exploration of the hadal zone and the workings of the deepest parts of the world’s oceans. The Triton submersible is effectively a reliable elevator that can transport us to any depth, in any ocean. At this point in the expedition, we have traversed over 110 vertical kilometers (68 miles) and proved the capabilities of a that will be a platform for science,filmmaking, and exploration of Earths hidden recesses.”
After 3 years in the making and a year in the undertaking, Victor Vescovo, the Five Deeps Expedition, and the Triton 36000/2 have successfully visited the deepest point of the world’s five oceans, precisely as the mission goal stated (Figure 3). The journey, though completed by one man, was made possible by the input of hundreds of others from around the planet. The advancements and progression in intellectual property and expertise was not limited to Triton Submarines alone; almost every partner that contributed to the project—through a supply chain that involved over 150 companies through 36 different countries—progressed their own capability in some way. The global village of deep ocean pro- fessionals is richer as a result of this groundbreaking project. This increased depth of knowledge and knowledge of the deep should benefit mankind for generations to come. In Profundo: Cognito.