Exploring the ocean depths in the lap of luxury

Exploring the ocean depths in the lap of luxury
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From two-man sport-subs to luxurious ocean-going monsters, the private submersible marketplace is opening up the World's last great bastion of exploration. Once solely the realm of military and research professionals, the chance to become a submariner is now available to consumers - at a price. This week Gizmo takes a look at some of the state of the art private submersibles available - at the top of the list is the Phoenix 1000 - a 65-meter personal luxury submarine that when completed will constitute the single largest private undersea vehicle ever built.

Designed but awaiting a buyer before construction can begin, the Phoenix 1000 will incorporate a total interior area of 460 square meters with two main passenger decks, each 31 meters long and 6 meters wide. The large pressure hull diameter allows for very large acrylic view-ports up to 1.8 meters in diameter for exceptional undersea viewing and the absence of structural bulkheads provides tremendous versatility in interior layout and space planning.

The Phoenix's large size coupled with its integrated roll stabilization system makes surface transit quite comfortable in all but the worst conditions. The craft is expected to make the trans-Atlantic crossing at 16 knots with the ability to dive en route and explore the continental margins of some of the most fascinating waters on earth. Rough conditions on the surface can also be avoided by diving to the serene ocean depths and there's even room for a separate mini-sub capable of leaving the Phoenix while submerged and making excursions down to 610 meters.

The Phoenix would be suitable for use as an exclusive submarine cruise ship or as a charter yacht but luxury on this scale comes at a price - around US$78 million according to US Subs, although a top-line "megayacht" can cost twice this amount.

At the other end of the spectrum in terms of size and price is the innovative Sportsub. These 2 and 3 seat personal submarines begin at less than US$40,000 and are designed for private ownership as well as commercial and tour operation.

The SportSub has evolved into 2 and 3 seat models since the original 1986 design was completed. The design provides the ability to see downward out of the sub, automatic control of buoyancy and an air-tight cockpit with a breathable air environment so users can breath and talk normally. Its "ambient design" means that that the air pressure inside the sub is the same as the water pressure outside the sub and therefore fibreglass can be used for the hull construction instead of expensive certified pressure hulls. There is no danger of the hull collapsing as no differential pressure is being exerted on the hull by the water.

The design also enables individuals to enter and exit the sub easily without the need of a lock-out chamber and the light-weight construction means the sub that can be towed on a trailer and launched from any boat ramp, or carried on the deck of a yacht.

An "Auto-Hover" system was added to the Sportsub line in 2001 that gives greater manoeuvrability and enables total fly-by-wire control.

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