By Jessica Tuggle
VERO BEACH - A sleek and sophisticated diving machine built in Vero Beach is now prowling the waters of the Pacific Ocean searching for large ocean predators.
The submarine vessel, the Triton 3300/3, is diving depths of about 3,000 feet about 550 miles south of Sagami Bay with a team of scientists and video journalists hoping to get footage of a giant squid.
The private owner of the submersible, who is unnamed out of concern for privacy, gave permission to NHK, the Japanese government equivalent of the U.S. public broadcasting channel, the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science Technology and the Discovery Channel to travel inside the Triton 3300/3 deep into the waters off the coast of Japan for a documentary expected to be released in early 2013, said Marc Deppe, Triton spokesman.
Patrick Lahey, president of Triton Submarines, recently returned from Japan where he trained the crew on how to operate the deep-diving vessel for the 75-day mission.
"They want to see what kind of animal life they can see, what kinds of deep water creatures are out there," Mr. Lahey said.
The submersible is outfitted with special infrared and low-light cameras that will help the team to film in almost pitch black darkness. Giant squid is extremely sensitive to light, so traditional video recording systems that rely on heavy lighting isn't going to work, Mr. Lahey said.
The Triton 3300/3 is built in such a way that adding on tools, such as the lighting and video equipment, is easy to install and remove, he said.
"It has incredibly utility and there is no doubt on its ability to be fitted with a variety of scientific equipment for future dives," Mr. Deppe said.
In the future, Triton hopes more marine scientists will see the tremendous versatility and potential the Triton 3300/3 can offer scientific research projects.
The ocean is a vast expanse and much of it has yet to be explored, Mr. Deppe said.
"I think we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about our own oceans right here," he said.
"We need to do a lot more with marine science and we believe submersibles need to be a part of it," Mr. Deppe said.
The submarine is the only one of its kind made by Triton, though other submersibles of smaller sizes are in various places around the world. Two more Triton 3300/3 models are currently in production, Mr. Lahey said.
The submarine is approximately 17,600 pounds, which means no ordinary yacht can handle moving it in or out of the water, Mr. Deppe said.
The base of operations for this expedition is the 56 meter motor yacht, Alucia.
A purpose-built expedition and research vessel, the Alucia is unique in the world. The yacht carries three deep diving submersibles and a host of scientific monitoring, sampling and testing equipment. Operational support of the Alucia is provided by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, a leader in deep-sea research and submersible operations for decades, a press release said.
Triton's CEO Bruce Jones is proud to see his company's submersibles being used for research and filmmaking.
"Triton is very happy to be part of this groundbreaking project," Mr. Jones said in a press release.
"The opportunity to capture images of giant squid and other rare marine species is incredibly exciting. It is also a great opportunity to dive the Triton 3300/3 with a mission profile that makes use of its full depth capability.
"When you dive beyond 1,000 feet, you can be sure that each dive will take you to places where no man has ever been before and that you will see things that no man has ever seen. This type of diving is what Triton is all about," Mr. Jones said.
To see pictures of Triton's team in Japan, visit http://tritonsubs.com/gallery/japan-2012-2.
For more information about Triton Submarines, visit www.tritonsubs.com.