VERO BEACH (CBS4) – Who would have thought Florida’s Treasure Coast would be the new hot spot in the submarine business?
Vero Beach based Triton Submarines said they went from several calls a month to several calls a day seeking information on their custom built personal submersibles.
Triton’s subs have become quite popular with mega-yacht owners in the Mediterranean and Caribbean. They’re also being used for serious ocean exploration.
Last year, a Triton sub was used in the documentary of the Giant Squid off the coast of Japan. Another Triton sub will be used to find the Giant Squid’s cousin, the “Colossal Squid” in the waters off Antarctica.
Triton’s subs, which start at around $3 million dollars, have an acrylic bubble cockpit which offers a unique view of the world beneath the waves.
“You can look downward, upward, rearward, upward and it’s just not possible in a conventional steel hulled sub,” said Triton Submarine’s Patrick Lahey.
“You can’t build empathy with the oceans from a machine or a screen,” said Triton Submarine’s Marc Deppe. “Putting a human eye into the ocean is critical.”
The newer Triton models can dive to 3,300 feet. Deppe said many of the subs’ wealthy owners bring their guests onboard to “have a bottle of wine and some sushi and chill out.”
“It’s just a whole different want to experience the ocean,” said Deppe.
On the scientific side of things, Triton executives said they are so proud their subs were used in the discovery of the Giant Squid last summer. Triton’s Jim Harris was behind the controls when the squid appeared.
“It just came out of nowhere! We saw it. It was pretty exciting,” said Harris. “It was 10 feet long. If it had out its tentacles, which this one particular animal did not have, it would have been about 28 feet long I think over all.”
The Fort Pierce based Ocean Research and Conservation Association played a key role in the Squid’s discovery. Dr. Edie Widder created the optical lure that was mounted on a probe extended from the sub.
“It’s got the biggest eye of any animal in the animal kingdom so it’s a visual predator,” said Dr. Widder. “We paid attention to that and tried not to use light that would scare it away, instead light that would attract it.”
The Triton team joked that they used to be referred to as the crazy guys in the corner at different boat shows with a submarine. Now, this Florida company is considered a leader in an industry catering to the world’s wealthiest people who just have to have one for their mega yachts and personal under-seas adventures.
“You’re seeing things in a manned submersible that are not possible to see any other way,” said Lahey.