Inside Limiting Factor: The Record Breaking Triton-Built Submersible


The Triton-built submersible Limiting Factor is a record-breaking masterpiece of engineering. It has been likened to the Apollo spacecraft, described as the “pathfinder to the last frontier on earth”. It is the first submersible to reach the deepest points of all five oceans and was pressure tested for up to 14,000 metres – a depth that does not exist on earth. Now John Ramsay, chief technology officer at Triton Submarines and Limiting Factor designer, has opened up about the challenges of taking submersible technology to unplumbed depths.

It started with Victor Vescovo, a 53-year-old private equity investor and retired naval officer, who was “a man with a plan” when Ramsay first met him in 2014. In fact, his plan – to become the first person to dive to the deepest points of the world’s oceans in a submersible that did not exist – was a “bit too serious”, Ramsay recalls. “He wanted something just for one person that could get him to the bottom of the five deeps.” And Vescovo was not fussed with frills. “He didn’t want all the specialist requirements of a submarine,” Ramsay says.

To prove the potential possibilities of the machine, Ramsay accompanied Vescovo and Triton president Patrick Lahey on a demonstration dive in the Bahamas. “One of the objectives of that dive was to prove to Victor the importance of being able to see out of the submarine with your own eyes and not just through cameras,” says Ramsay. “We spent a long time discussing the technical details of what was and wasn’t possible, being quite matter of fact about it and admitting when things would take more research, time and money.”