In 1799, the British naturalist Dr George Shaw was presented with the preserved body of what he would later name a “platypus”, a chimeric creature so extraordinary that he was immediately sure it was a prank created by some opium-addled taxidermist.
And history, we’ve learned, repeats itself.
This time, the Platypus is the name of another aquatic creature, a watercraft that is part trimaran, part diving platform, and part, well, underwater motorcycle? Semi-submerged zeppelin? Aquatic Falcor?
The bright-blue Platypus prototype has been in the water since 2013, a proof-of-concept that’s managed to get quite a few people — both individuals and tourism entrepreneurs — excited about a rather more luxurious version of Snuba. The upcoming production model, designed by French naval architects Van Peteghem Lauriot Prévost, is expected to take that working idea to a smarter and more seaworthy iteration, with speed and stability optimized by VPLP’s experience designing racing boats.
In port, the Platypus resembles a conventional boat, with two broad pontoons at either side and piloted from a platform in the rear. In the center is a third cylinder — this one submersible, upon which two riders straddle as they might a personal watercraft. The vessel is seaworthy enough to reach lovely dive spots (assuming one starts in the Bahamas and not Birmingham) at about 12 knots, and when it does, that center structure pivots downward, turning the riders into divers, submerging them a few feet below the surface for a view of the underside of the waves.
These undersea explorers are fitted with full-face masks and hoses from a topside air compressor, and secured to their sea mount with a simple (and easily releasable) seatbelt. The front diver can then use joysticks to steer the Platypus to any reef, rock, or wreck at 3 knots, which we’re sure is quite fast enough. This rethinking of the snorkelverse opens up the diving world to the inexperienced, the disabled, and anyone else who likes a bit of vehicular backup when in unfamiliar territory.
The Platypus can be powered by two electric or petrol engines, depending on desired range and roughness of the seas. Options include a 360-degree camera setup, a communications system, a digital periscope, a sundeck, wi-fi, GPS navigation, and — for an extra bit of security — a shark cage. Available in three models, the entry level Platypus will cost €60,000 (about £50,000, or $66,000) when it launches next year.
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