What’s in a Name?

The naming of these vessels is a large tip of the hat and no small amount of admiration for Iain M Banks’ brilliant science fiction series.

Victor Vescovo



The transport ship will carry the submersible and drop it into the extreme pressure of the ocean depths.



The design of the Deep Submersible Vessel  (DSV) sub focused on figuring out what the limits of the ocean depths are, how to survive down there, and was created based on what the “limiting factors” are.



Serving as “sea traffic control,” the 15-foot DSSV will be deployed during dives to independently monitor the Pressure Drop and the Limiting Factor.



The DSSV transport boat was named for the ‘Z’ sound, given that it is a “Zodiac”-brand/type vessel.



The DSSV rigid hull boat that ferries supplies to and from the Pressure Drop looks, and behaves in the water, like a little rascal.



If this DSSV boat is ever used, it will probably be because of a “livewire” (i.e. “human”) problem, versus a technical snag.



The landers were named for a major set of Culture characters, AI drones, that are extremely intelligent and very symbiotic with the humans they interact with, and also name themselves. The full names Fohristiwhirl Skaffen-Amtiskaw Handrahen Dran Easpyou, Sprant Flere-Imsaho Wu-Handrahen Xato Trabiti, and Uhana Closp were shorten for simplicity to: Skaff, Flere, and Closp.

The Story Behind the Names

Since Victor Vescovo can remember reading, he has been an avid fan of science fiction. Jules Verne’s novels, Star Trek, and UFO were among his early favorites. As he grew up, he discovered Frank Herbert’s landmark epic Dune, Isaac Asimov’s Robot series, David Brin’s Startide Rising, and the works of Daniel Keys Moran, Vernon Vinge, and William Gibson. Eventually, Victor found Ian Banks’ genre-breaking “Culture” series. The worlds created by these imaginative minds left an indelible impression and stimulated his own desire to make these futures at least a bit closer to reality.

Out of admiration for their work, Victor saw an opportunity to push technology forward in an area that appeared to have suffered from a lack of technological innovation and support: exploration of the deep oceans. When asked by the engineering and ship teams what to name all of the craft that would be involved in executing the Five Deeps Expedition, it felt natural to turn to science fiction to find names for the vessels.

Science fiction propels forward thought, and makes curious people want to build the things that the authors have dreamed up

Victor Vescovo

Banks’ “Culture” series provided a wealth of options. The stories are set in a vast galaxy and center around the Culture, a post-economic, semi-anarchist utopia consisting of various humanoid races that are controlled by advanced Artificial Intelligences that have figured out how to make everything. A do-as-you-please-as-long-as-you-don’t-hurt-anyone society, the Culture is run by the Minds, which are extreme AIs.

One wonderful, hilarious, and cool aspect of the “Culture” series is that the Minds that run everything are not only brilliant, but also a little puckish as well. The Minds ‘live’ in, and basically “are,” the space vessels, and after being constructed and developing their personalities a bit, they choose their own names. Rather than giving themselves what we would consider “regular” ship names, the names they choose for themselves are meant to capture a bit of the Mind’s personality and are usually descriptive and often, quite playful. as well

Victor Vescovo

Victor also saw a nice parallel to Elon Musk’s SpaceX venture. Musk, a devotee of the Culture series, named three of his rocket-recovery drone ships after names from the Culture series: Just Read the Instructions, Of Course I Still Love You and A Shortfall of Gravitas.

The naming of the vessels is a tip of the hat to both Mr. Banks, who sadly died from cancer in 2013, as well as to Mr. Musk, who is sending things up via his firm SpaceX, while we are sending things down. I decided to draw on the Culture series in naming the vessels of the Five Deeps expedition.

Victor Vescovo

Even Victor’s ocean technology development company, Caladan Oceanic — whose logo is affixed to the Pressure Drop and Limiting Factor — draws its name from science fiction. Caladan is the waterworld home of the main character in Dune, Paul Atreides, who must leave Caladan to take up residence on Arrakis (aka Dune).