Thursday, March 31, 2005

Life under the sea

Okay, so maybe it is because I am suffering from a cold, or maybe it's because of the latest study released by the UN that says we are going to Hell in a handbasket, or one too many space novels, but I'm starting to think it might be a good idea to start living underwater. Living underwater would be a lot like living in space, except with gravity, and it would be an order of magnitude less dangerous. Or at least, it COULD be.

A few assumptions are in order: First, I am talking about something that is only about fifty or sixty feet below the water surface, permanently mounted on the ocean floor, in a sheltered cove somewhere moderately remote. At this depth, the water does not get overly cold, and sunlight is still able to penetrate, at least in an ambient sense. Also, it is shallow enough not to require pressurization, meaning a stairwell (or elevator for the financially gifted) to the surface is possible, without getting the bends. I'm not interested in being immersed in an inky, cold, wet environment. I'm interested in a self sufficient, isolated, non-polluting establishment that can operate as a research lab in addition to providing long term accomodations.

With the decision to not pressurize, I am faced with building a structure that is able to withstand the weight of all that water. This shouldn't be too difficult though. Submarines regularly go much deeper. In fact, a lot of tech can probably be taken from submarines for this project.

Ideally, I would like lots of windows, to observe things on the ocean floor. Maybe a hyperbaric chamber can be used as a transition area to move from the non-pressurized living quarters into a pressurized work area. This work area would have scuba equipment and an open area to enter the water from. We could get really ambitious, and start an underwater garden of sorts. I haven't really given this part much thought.

One key facet to this project would be the floating dock, held in place above the establishment by the access tubes (either for air ventilation, or for the stairway/elevator.) The floating platform would have a docking area for boats or small planes to raft against, making supply deliveries easy. Also, it would be a good place to put some solar and wind generators - 2 things I would expect to get lots of in the ideal setting. In addition to that, perhaps an underwater turbine can generate energy from tidal movements. It would be important to keep the floating dock very open and airy, since the underwater environment will probably tend to be somewhat confined.

Another challenge would be to build a reverse osmosis water purifier, as well as a heating tank for a steady supply of hot drinking water. I have no idea on how to deal with any waste or garbage at this point. That would also have to be dealt with though (understatement of the week.)

Anyway, if anyone else has thoughts to add to this, I'd be happy to hear them.

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