In Greek mythology, Proteus was a sea god capable of assuming different forms. And now Proteus also is the name of a new type of ocean-going ship that can adapt its shape to the motion of the sea.
A hush-hush project to develop a new type of ocean vessel was introduced last week, when a prototype called “Proteus” made its way across San Francisco Bay.
Ugo Canti is its inventor and captain. "Now, finally we are ready for this preview," he said.
Conti says he came up with the idea years ago for the new ship, officially called a WAM-V, for Wave Adaptive Modular Vehicle.
"It, it is a completely different motion from another boat. Completely different. It has a much faster motion, because it is so light, and so it is really dancing a little bit on the waves."
The craft has two flexible pontoon-like hulls that conform to the surface of the water. The boat's cabin, attached by hinges and joints to four metal legs, hangs above the water. That, says Conti, makes for a smooth ride. "The motion is not this very slow type of motion that you get with big ship. But it is very fast, almost like a car."
The inventor says Proteus is ultra-light, very maneuverable and has a cruising range of 8,000 kilometers. There is no rudder. Steering is managed by adjusting power to the two engines mounted in each pontoon.
Conti envisions Proteus being used for scientific research. Maria Brown of the U.S. government's National Marine Sanctuaries agrees. "This is a completely new, different, unique vessel, and we are very intrigued about how we could possible use it," she said.
Conti has patented the design, and hopes to begin marketing his unusual vessel later this year. No price has been set yet, but for those who want to make a splash aboard a wave-adaptive ship, Conti says... "If you are extremely rich and you want to make a scene coming into a harbor, this is it."