It sounds like the plot of a Jules Verne science fiction novel – three teams of intrepid explorers are locked in a race to reach the deepest depths of the ocean. Each team is scrambling to build and launch a high-tech submarine capable of withstanding a dangerous journey seven miles straight down to the bottom of the sea.
It’s a landscape of pitch blackness and freezing cold temperatures – an abyss where strange, pale-colored sea creatures dart between the rocks. The dangers are immense – the pressure is so great that a human would be instantly crushed into a small clump of flesh and bone.
But this story isn’t science fiction. It’s the real-life drama of the race between three teams to reach the sea floor of the Mariana Trench, the most isolated and extreme environment on Earth.
Two of the teams are headed by famous celebrities with deep pockets and an unending quest for adventure. British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, owner of the 32 meter (111 foot) luxury yacht charter vessel NECKER BELLE is one. The other is Hollywood filmmaker, James Cameron. Cameron, the director of Avatar, Titanic and The Abyss has already pumped $10 million into his sub, whose design is a closely guarded secret.
Then there is the underdog – Patrick Lahey. In a novel or movie, Lahey’s character is Everyman – the little guy with the big dream and the courage to take on bigger, more powerful foes.
Lahey is president of tiny Central Florida company Triton Submarines. The blue-collar diver and his band of submariners are heavy underdogs to their wealthy competitors. But if they can dive their uniquely designed sub to the bottom of the trench before Branson and Cameron do, they’ll be heroes. They also hope to persuade the reality television producers of the Deadliest Catch to film the whole race, in which case Everyman Lahey and his team might even get rich.
Lahey’s motivation, however, is not money. His dream is to open the deep sea to thousands of people. Triton plans to take tourists two at a time to the trench, and Lahey hopes to sell the transparent-hulled subs to megayacht owners around the world. Bahama yacht charters motor yacht MINE GAMES is one of the first charter vessels to carry an onboard submarine as part of the yacht’s watertoy inventory.
“We’re interested in getting more people to give a sh** about the ocean,” Lahey says. “The future of our species depends on it, yet 95 percent of the ocean has never been explored. It really is the last frontier on Earth.”
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