Personal subs have tended to be acrylic spheres with pontoons, the bulbous transparent capsules offering exceptional views, but not much interior space. Besides looking clunky, these subs typically crawl through the water, and that two- or three-knot top speed is often minimized by ocean currents.
Triton’s Project Hercules, a concept unveiled at the Monaco Yacht Show, promises to rewrite the rules of design for mini-subs. It can dive to 656 feet, but its speed is even more noteworthy. Hercules can travel up to 8 knots, almost three times faster than competitors. The Formula 1-style spoiler at the front advances and retracts to balance the horizontal trim, and provides protection as a fender, while also holding the cameras, lights and sonar.
Modeled after a private jet, Hercules is a collaboration between Triton Submarines, Dark Ocean Design and Monaco-based superyacht design studio Espen Øino International.
“Over the past fifteen years, we’ve learned how to move up and down through the water, and our subs have accomplished missions anywhere in the world,” said Craig Barnett, Triton’s director of marketing, at Monaco. “But now we’re focusing on creating a new kind of experience.”
With Hercules, form very much equals function.
Private submersibles are usually built around an acrylic sphere for the panoramic views. But in December 2021, Triton released its 660 AVA (advanced versatile acrylics) series. That new design introduced free-form acrylic pressure hulls that were longer and flatter than the conventional bubble. The new technology now allows Triton to build transparent hulls in irregular geometries which, in the case of the 660 series, gave the sub the capability of carrying up to nine guests.
On Hercules, the design team took another tack. Rather than maximizing seat space, they focused on comfort. In this case, comfort for two. The volume of its transparent dome is almost three times greater than last-generation dual-hulled submersibles, but its narrow shape allows for a longer and more luxurious feel inside.
“When tasked with restyling the AVA, we had a ‘what if?’ moment where rather than focusing on maximizing the number of guests, we concentrated on the experience,” said Andrea Bonini, head of special projects at Espen Øino International. “We wanted to create an intimate, sociable setting.”
The design team came up with multiple interior options for Hercules. In the images above, twin leather lounges in front provide the best seats in the sub. But Øino’s team also imagined the space with a day bed. Perhaps the most innovative option is the “private diving” configuration, where the pilot is separated from the guest compartment by bulkheads. Between the two compartments is a day head and mini bar.
The pilot’s helm seat can slide forward so he or she can curate the dive and act as a guide, or it can retract behind the bulkheads when privacy is required. Exterior cameras and screens or a VR headset could supplement the pilot’s view, says Barnett, leaving the guests to enjoy a front-row seat in a living room setting deep below the ocean’s surface.
The team also brought outside-the-box thinking to the exterior by removing the large pontoons that typically wrap around the submersible and obstruct the view. This meant the buoyancy tanks needed to shift aft, along with the battery banks and main electronics.
“The extended acrylic shape maximizes internal volume without making the displacement [of the acrylic dome] absolutely enormous,” said John Ramsay, lead engineer at Dark Ocean Design. Translation: The new oblong shape is better designed for a superyacht, as opposed to the tall shape of most submersibles, since the height of a tender garage often determines what type of submersible is carried on board.
The eight-knot speed, which lets Hercules keep up with sharks, comes courtesy of four large thrusters at the stern. It also means that rather than being restricted to the “up-down” vertical plane that submersibles generally operate in, Hercules can explore wider areas along the ocean bottom. To complete the experience, Triton will also offer music, air conditioning, 12 hours of battery time and, if a couple really wants to frolic with the fish, four days of life support.
Project Hercules will now undergo computational fluid dynamic analyses before Triton releases the final specifications and pricing.