Shirley Griffith with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Two-thirds of the
Earth is covered with water. But people
have explored only a small part of the world's oceans. One person who means to change that is
Graham Hawkes. He designs and builds
submarines unlike any that have been made before.
Hawkes is an inventor, designer, explorer and visionary. His company, Hawkes Ocean Technologies, is
based in Point Richmond, California, near San Francisco. In his workshop, he and three employees use
computers to design submarines that use the newest technologies. They have completely changed the way people
think about undersea vehicles.
Hawkes has compared traditional submarines to balloons. Submarines are built to go up and down by
making themselves heavier, or lighter, than water. Movement is severely limited and chasing creatures in the ocean
is not possible.
traditional deep-sea submarines is also very costly. There is one main reason for this. They require support ships of up to one hundred meters in length. The ship must be able to lift a submarine
weighing thousands of kilograms off its deck and into the water in rough sea
conditions. The need for a huge support
ship drives the cost of deep-sea exploration to thousands and even hundreds of
thousands of dollars a day.
Operated Vehicles are one answer to lowering the cost of deep-sea
exploration. R.O.V.s are deep-sea
robots. They do not need to protect
humans against the crushing pressure of the deep-water environment. So these robots can be small and more easily
moved from the deck of a smaller ship.
robotic exploration of the ocean is not what interests Graham Hawkes. He urges the direct experience of human
exploration of the ocean depths. To
reach his dream, he knew he had to build a submarine that was smaller and
smarter than traditional undersea vehicles, or submersibles.
Hawkes realized that he could greatly cut the cost of operating a submarine by
making it smaller and lighter. To do
this, he designed a completely different submersible. Traditional submarines sink.
But Graham Hawkes' submarines are designed to be lighter than
water. They will float to the surface
it there is a problem.
the submarines permit them to "fly" through the water. But, unlike airplane wings, which create
lift, the wings on Mister Hawkes' submarines force the vehicle down. In fact, the submarines must go forward in
order to dive.
Hawkes' most recent submarine design, the Deep Flight Super Falcon, looks like
a fighter airplane. That is because it
uses similar design elements. It holds
two people who can look out into the ocean through two large, rounded windows,
or domes. Also, the submarine is fast
enough to follow creatures in the sea.
That was one of its design requirements.
first Deep Flight Super Falcon already has an owner: California businessman Tom
Perkins. Mister Perkins owns the
world's biggest sailing boat, the Maltese Falcon, valued at one hundred eighty
million dollars. But he is also an able
diver interested in the sea. He wanted
a vehicle that would provide underwater experiences that no one else has had.
Graham Hawkes describes the submarine this way.
GRAHAM HAWKES: "The Super Falcon for Tom Perkins really
isn't compromised. It is a beautiful,
rounded, high-performance, you know, machine.
If you want to know what it looks like, just think of a two-seater,
underwater jet trainer. And that's
pretty much it exactly."
Flight Super Falcon is the world's first submersible built for "sub-sea
flight" that can be produced in numbers.
But it is costly. Its base price
is about one million seven hundred thousand dollars. Fully equipped, it can be much more. Mister Hawkes is building a second Super Falcon for himself. He plans to use it to offer classes in
Hawkes has had a long working life building undersea vehicles. He was born in London in nineteen
forty-seven. He studied mechanical
engineering at the London Polytechnic.
After college, he began working with the Royal Navy on small
submersibles that could be linked with larger submarines. Later he designed deep-sea diving suits and
many undersea vehicles for the offshore oil industry. During his early work, he built about fifty submersible
vehicles. He tested many of these
these projects never satisfied Graham Hawkes' desire to go further, faster and
deeper. It took him over twenty years
to reach the decision to go out on his own.
Graham Hawkes realized that, to reach his goals, he had to make a huge
change. It would be the same kind of
technological jump that aviators made when they went from balloons to
fixed-wing airplanes. In fact, Mister
Hawkes calls the technology he developed "sub-sea flight" to set it
apart from traditional submarine designs.
away from designing traditional submersibles was not easy. The military, the oil industry and
scientists all use traditional submarines.
There were no buyers for Mister Hawkes' revolutionary new
submersibles. Graham Hawkes says he
does not know how he was able to make his business work. He got a lot of help from volunteers, and
support from National Geographic, Television New Zealand and the film company,
ten years to design and develop Hawkes Ocean Technology's first submarine, Deep
Flight One. It was launched in nineteen
ninety-six. It has not been easy to
continue operations. But it is not
profit that drives Graham Hawkes to design submarines. We asked him where he found the reason, or
inspiration, for his work.
GRAHAM HAWKES: "I think if it was anywhere, it was the early days
of aviation itself. If you look back to
those pioneers, it was all driven by passion.
It wasn't driven by money. And I
think we're in the same position here, really.
The first twenty years it wasn't about making money at all. It was about spending it."
Flight Challenger is another major project developed by Hawkes Ocean
Technologies. This micro-submarine was
built for adventurer Steve Fossett. He
had hoped to use it to dive to the deepest part of the ocean: the Challenger
Deep in the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench.
a person more than ten thousand nine hundred meters under the sea presents huge
engineering problems. The water
pressure at this depth is one and one fourth metric tons for each square
last, and only, submarine to travel to the Challenger Deep was the United
States Navy-operated Trieste in nineteen sixty. The Trieste was more than eighteen meters long and weighed more
than fifty thousand kilograms. But the
crew stayed in a small two-meter round room with only a small window. That was not
how Steve Fossett wanted to visit the ocean's deepest place.
Flight Challenger dives using the same sub-sea flight technology invented by
Graham Hawkes. It has a large rounded
dome window that lets the pilot see forward, above and to the sides. The window is built out of a ceramic
material to withstand the intense ocean pressure. The five-meter long body is built of carbon fiber. A high-technology manufacturing method
creates an extremely strong but lightweight material. Still, the room that holds the pilot is surrounded by a layer of
carbon fiber more than ten centimeters thick.
The whole submersible weighs about three thousand six hundred kilograms.
Steve Fossett never had the chance to test the Deep Flight Challenger. He disappeared on September third, two
thousand seven, while flying a small airplane over the state of Nevada. His
remains and the wreckage of his plane were finally found earlier this month.
The submarine designed for him was only about four weeks from its first tests
when he disappeared. Graham Hawkes owns the deep flight technology used to
build the submersible. But the estate
of Steve Fossett owns the Deep Flight Challenger. Mister Hawkes tells us that he will probably not be the one to use
the submarine to reach the goal of the Challenger Deep.
The Deep Flight Challenger is now in one of Mister Hawkes'
workshops: nobody knows what its future will be.
Hawkes reminds everyone he speaks with that a huge part of the Earth remains
unexplored. He says the next great goal
is not the moon, but the sea. Now, his
sub-sea flight technology has changed the rules for ocean exploration. In the future, people may use small
submersibles to explore and enjoy the deep ocean. If that happens, they will probably have Graham Hawkes to thank
This program was written and
produced by Mario Ritter. I'm Steve Ember.
And I'm Shirley Griffith. To see pictures of these submarines, visit
our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.
Join us again next week for Explorations in VOA Special English.