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Earth NASA Science Technology

Permanent Undersea Homes Soon; Temporary Ones Now 122

MMBK writes "Dennis Chamberland is one of the world's preeminent aquanauts. He's worked with NASA to develop living habitats and underwater plant growth labs, among other cool things. His next goal is establishing the world's first permanent underwater colony. This video gets to the heart of his project, literally and figuratively, as most is shot in his underwater habitat, Atlantica, off the coast of Key Largo, FL. The coolest part might be the moon pool, the room you swim into underwater."
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Permanent Undersea Homes Soon; Temporary Ones Now

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  • Cousteau (Score:3, Informative)

    by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @08:22AM (#31463192)
    It was tried in the 1960s in the Red Sea
    • Re:Cousteau (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sheehaje ( 240093 ) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @09:01AM (#31463342)

      With 1960's technology. He said in the video that it was impractical to do it back then. But using modern technology it could be.

      While I wouldn't want to live underwater myself, if this is done responsibly I am all for it. We talk about colonizing space, this is actually a step in that direction, and a lot cheaper and will push the same types of technology if we are ever going to colonize space.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 13, 2010 @10:13AM (#31463674)

        Leela: "Five thousand feet!"
        Farnsworth: "Dear Lord! That's over one hundred and fifty athmospheres of pressure."
        Fry: "How many athmospheres can the ship withstand?"
        Farnsworth: "Well, it's a space ship. So I'd say anywhere between zero and one."

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          No idea why you were modded insightful. Big deal that the hulls are subject to different design ideals. A hardcover book will resist bending more than the paperback version. Still the same story on the inside.

          There couldn't possibly be any crossover for oh.. I don't know.. say sustainable atmosphere recycling, waste management, or food production.

      • With 1960's technology. He said in the video that it was impractical to do it back then.

        You mean, if you give the people Internet access and Slashdot, they will happily forget that the view out of the window isn't that great?

      • by jonadab ( 583620 )
        It's still not practical, nor will be for the forseeable future.

        *Possible*, perhaps, but not practical. To be practical, there would have to be some benefit to it besides novelty. You'd have to be able to build whole cities down there and, importantly, these cities would have to support themselves economically in some fashion. That's just not going to happen now or soon.

        I suppose you could build an exotic resort down there, and charge rich people an arm and a leg to visit for a week at a time. Beyond th
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          The trouble is, if you have the technology needed to build a modestly self-sustaining(ie. trade is perfectly ok; but it can't simply be a subsidized tech demo or a tourist-trap for the extremely rich) underwater colony, you almost certainly could use very similar tech to build in all but the most hostile parts of the earth's land area for substantially less money. Or, if the technology is deeply tied to the sea in some way, surface vessels are (comparatively) cheap and easy. That is what drives the point of
          • Since you are immersed in salt water, any sort of agriculture will either involve serious halophiles or highly efficient closed loop freshwater stuff. Hey, look, if you have the tech to manage that in a more or less cost-effective way, you can have your pick of the earth's presently unfarmable deserts, without the cost of pressure resistant naval architecture or the risks of running out of air. Plenty of wind and solar power, too.

            The desert would require buildings/houses that can reflect quite a bit of sun rays. If it doesn't, houses will start to cook people. Having that much heat, sand, and wind will make having open houses impractical as well.

            Having water to make farmable land isn't enough. The plants need to be able to survive the extreme temperatures in the desert.

            All in all, undersea housing and desert housing will probably balance out, due to the fact that it is much cheaper to create heat than to remove heat. At the ve

            • The desert would require buildings/houses that can reflect quite a bit of sun rays.If it doesn't, houses will start to cook people. Having that much heat, sand, and wind will make having open houses impractical as well.

              White paint, doors and windows have been around a long, long time. Humans have lived in the desert now for a long, long time.

              Have you ever been to Palm Springs, California or Phoenix, Arizona? Both of them are in the desert, with pretty much nothing but desert between them. Driving betw

      • With 1960's technology. He said in the video that it was impractical to do it back then. But using modern technology it could be.


        It's still impractical. Even with newer technology, living under the sea is hugely impractical. This is a neat idea that's a lot like rocket packs or flying cars; perhaps doable, but so impractical as to ensure that it never becomes widespread.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      One interesting problem that they encountered was human waste disposal.

      Their first approach was to vent it into the surrounding water directly. They had to stop doing this after the turds started floating to the surface and lingering. Most people don't realize this, but the Red Sea is actually quite calm due to it almost being a lake. These lingering turds posed a health risk, so they had to find an alternative method.

      Their next approach was to store the feces and urine in plastic bags. This proved to be a

    • That was then, this is now (in the 60s we had four function calculators that weighed pounds and cost $100s).

      Cousteau, the inventor of the first commercially successful Aqua Lung did it in '43. "Sea Hunt came on in '58 when I was 11 and I watched it religiously and was fascinated by the undersea world. One assignment in grade school was to write a business letter ordering something. I was about 7 or 8 and ordered a Porpoise Model CA single hose scuba tank, regulator, fins, weights, dive knife etc. The poo

  • It's about time we as a species started living in the water a bit more. I don't know why we'd approach underwater homes ahead of living on the surface first. I'm sure you'd get used to the rocking and a giant village on a raft would be great.
  • It'll all be great until Zissou up and pilfers it while you're out.
  • Isn't there an Asimov short story about an experimental underwater city that needed Government resources to expand while the Government granted all funding to outerspace colonization?
    • I recall a story where the One World Government(tm) existed in a floating city that had no propulsion of its own. It just drifted around aimlessly, by design. Not sure if this was an Asimov, Clarke, or some authors work. Its been way too long.
    • Waterclap

  • I hope to god this doesn't turn into a real life Bioshock... or maybe not, Rapture seems like a cool idea without the Adam mutated splicers.
  • ..flying car? I wont be happy until I can fly home and play Duke Nukem Forever.
  • Funny. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I've dove in that lagoon and checked out the labs they have there. One is used as a hotel that you can book a room in, the other is a lab. It cracked me up that through the window of the research lab I could see a small fish tank with a fish in it.

  • Unda da sea (Score:5, Funny)

    by MLS100 ( 1073958 ) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @08:54AM (#31463318)

    Thank you for that lame song in my head all day.

  • by bakaorg ( 870848 )
    Sounds cool, but I think there are some practical downsides to living underwater.  UPS/Fedex deliveries.  Service calls.  Public utilities (fresh water, sewer, electrical, gas).  General safety in the face of disasters becomes much more of a concern.

    Water cooling your servers might be easier--as long as the saltwater doesn't corrode your fittings.

    Best leave this to plant growth labs instead of primary living quarters.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You're kidding me right?

      Deliveries go to a PO box at a nearby port (for now, otherwise in the future you can bet UPS will have subs -- business will adapt). Service calls would be handled by the local techs in the /community/, fresh water will of course have to be shipped in or desalinated, poop will feed the plants (or the kelp, it's the freakin ocean, plenty of things poop in it as-is (including us)), electric comes from whatever the handiest source happens to be (there's always tidal but I would say geot

      • by jonadab ( 583620 )
        > Deliveries go to a PO box at a nearby port

        Yes, and then?

        > (for now, otherwise in the future you can bet UPS will have subs -- business will adapt).

        Just like they've adapted and started delivering to the various research bases in Antarctica?

        The thing is, as impractical as an undersea colony would be, it would still be useful -- as a demonstration of some of the reasons why the moon colonies people keep proposing aren't practical.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      Yeah I'm torn between "visionary" and "crackpot." Besides the beautiful scenery, what exactly is the purpose of living underwater? You can't go outside. You won't have any neighbors per se. The whole house has got to be completely self-sufficient, which means expensive and perfect, and you can't make improvements to it. So much for teaching your kids to play baseball or mowing the lawn. And the lack of sunshine is a psychological disaster waiting to happen.

      In short, I think you're going to spend the en

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by urusan ( 1755332 )

        In the video he specifically addresses these concerns.

        It's not an exile. You can go outside into the surrounding sea and to the surface (either by swimming there directly or taking a vehicle).

        Not everything needs to be made underwater. Trade between land and sea will be important. The goal is merely to make that capacity available. Furthermore, even if everything is made underwater it won't be a single habitat that is self-sufficient, but rather a whole community of habitats. Friends, jobs, shopping, etc. w

      • by hey! ( 33014 )

        The only difference between "crackpot" and "visionary" is the degree of of appeal the crack/vision holds for you.

        • by Ozric ( 30691 )

          The only difference between "crackpot" and "visionary" is the degree of of appeal the crack/vision holds for you.

          I am with ya, a few years ago I stated that people would at some point, start living under the water due to cosmic rays and solar radiation concerns. People thought I was a crack pot for suggesting it, I still stand by my statements and think it is a valid line of research.

          Crack pot or no, think of the view from your porch.

      • Yeah I'm torn between "visionary" and "crackpot." Besides the beautiful scenery, what exactly is the purpose of living underwater? You can't go outside. You won't have any neighbors per se. The whole house has got to be completely self-sufficient, which means expensive and perfect, and you can't make improvements to it. So much for teaching your kids to play baseball or mowing the lawn. And the lack of sunshine is a psychological disaster waiting to happen.

        So basically you're saying that this will make an almost perfect selection process for future astronauts.

        • >perfect selection process for future astronauts

          Well yeah, exactly. It's when he mentions having kids underwater that I got creeped out.

      • by karnal ( 22275 )

        The more I think about it, the more I come to actually like this scenario.

        I live closer to the city, and with some of my neighbors - barking dogs, yelling drunken fights etc. It gets old pretty quick, and having something underwater means it can be as quiet as me and my wife want it to be.

        I'm fine with people, but I'd rather come home and not have to deal with neighbors. I know, I could move, but financially right now is not the time to do it.

        • Have you heard the rather sardonic definition: "Boat -noun. A hole in the water into which one throws money."?

          Submarine hardware is presumably rather worse. Particularly with the speculative crash in some of the formerly pricey exurban developments, it'll be a cold day in hell before submarines are cheaper than suburbs if you want peace and quiet(and, for everybody who isn't a field marine biologist, the commute will still be better).
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by jonadab ( 583620 )
        > Yeah I'm torn between "visionary" and "crackpot."

        That's a false dichotomy. It's entirely possible to be both.
  • I'm not much of a pioneer, so this 4-person habitat doesn't sound like my thing, but wake me when they've got it up to a few thousand people and internet access and it could be fun to live there.

  • This underwater colony sounds awesome. Would you kindly reserve me an apartment there?

    Incidentally - will the moon pool be filled with moon milk []?

  • There was a SciFi series called Seaquest DSV Starring Roy Sheider. TheSub of the title went round patrolling among undersea colonies.
    The second season was called Seaquest 2032.

    • Starring Darwin the dolphin and Wil Wheaton as Wesley, I mean Mathew Waterhouse as Adrick, I mean Jonathan Brandis as Lucas.

      Woah, I didn't know he killed himself aged 27 because of the flak over that role (or other reasons). That's really unfortunate. I liked him in it! (and the other two characters I mentioned).

    • lies the future! SeaQuest FTW

      Cool show.. except for when it went (way) off the rails on occasion.

      About damn time we started colonizing the ocean one way or another.. there's a whole lot of space out there!

  • Having lived below sea level in Holland for the most of my life: duh.

  • – the first citizens of a new $there civilization"

    $there is "space" on even decades, "ocean" on odd?
    Except for $there, the mantra seems to have been reiterated unchanged ever since Jules Verne or so.

  • I am Andrew Ryan, and I am here to ask you a question: Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his own brow?
    No, says the man in Washington. It belongs to the poor.
    No, says the man in the Vatican. It belongs to God.
    No, says the man in Moscow. It belongs to everyone.
    I rejected those answers. Instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose...
    A city where the artist would not fear the censors.
    Where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality.
    Where the great would not be constrained by the small.
    With the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city, as well.

  • by Skapare ( 16644 )

    ... no more having to mow the lawn.

  • by JSBiff ( 87824 ) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @10:39AM (#31463842) Journal

    Here we go - just start replacing current coastal buildings with these, and when the sea level rises 8 or 10 feet, everyone will be ready.

    [JohnHodgemanVoice]You're welcome![/JohnHodgemanVoice]

  • the first expedition will be initiated by the submersion of the Leviathan

    A page right out of the Illuminatus! trilogy. Eye optional?
    So for once they let someone work for NASA [] who knows his conspiracy literature. ;-)
    Best tongue-in-cheek mission name ever since the obviously Doom-playing Russians calling theirs Phobos []-Grunt [].

    Hagbard Celine: The sea is crueler than the land, sometimes.
    Howard: The sea is cleaner than the land. There's no hate. Just death when and as needed.

  • Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DavidShor ( 928926 ) <> on Saturday March 13, 2010 @10:49AM (#31463886) Homepage
    I just can't see the motivation for living underwater, outside of a couple of tiny niches like deep-sea mining or off-shore oil drilling. The latest estimates are that world population will level off fairly soon, and there really is no shortage of land. Even for eccentrics who want to live in isolation near the water, it would probably be cheaper and logistically easier to build a cottage somewhere on the coast line far away from the city.


    Some people have brought up sea-steading or escaping tyrannical governments, but wouldn't a cruise ships fill that role more effectively at a fraction of the cost? (That's assuming the thinking of the movement is sound. The French are not exactly tyrants, but they had no problem bombing that green-peace vessel in the 80's. If you're rich enough to live in an underwater city, you're probably better off buying your way into to a nice Western Country...)

    Maybe I'm missing something. Feel free to fill me in.

    • Because you can't develop plasmids in the nice Western Countries.
    • I'm not sure about sea-steading as a reliable way of life but escaping tyrannical gov'ts might be an interesting exercise. As far as I understand, the coastal shelf is in most areas 'claimed' already by one country or another, and I don't think we have the technology to build far enough away from the "shallow" water over the shelves to reasonably escape gov't claims to the area. I could be wrong - I've never seen maps of the sea borders of coastal countries, nor do I know what the laws are regarding owning
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Once you pass outside of 25 miles off of the coast of the US, you are in international waters. You can do whatever the hell you want to, as long as you don't make a nuisance of yourself. Funny, that's how the US proper used to be...

      • The other thing you could do is unobtainium mining. Since most of the sea floor has not been mined, we could mine for stuff like platinum, gold, indium, and those trendy rare-earth metals. There's also uranium and thorium everywhere and no-one will care if you build a nuclear power plant out there.
      • [] and [] are instructive.


        Basically, it's not allowed to "own" parcels of ocean far off the coast, and everything you do is subject to the International Tribunal of the law of the Sea or the International Seabed Authority.

        The whole "International Waters as a free-for-all" thing is really a bit of a myth.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Like moving to another, living underwater might keep you safe from certain mass extinction events on the surface of the Earth.

      We could also build a city a few hundred feet under the surface. Wouldn't be able to sustain it without the resources on the surface for quite a while yet, though.

    • by Risha ( 999721 )
      Permanent cruise ship homes [] already exist.
  • by AlgorithMan ( 937244 ) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @11:08AM (#31463984) Homepage
    Homer: Stupid Flounders
    • That line is from S16E15 "Future Drama", where Homer has an underwater flat and his garden furniture is stolen by flounders... Yeah, I'm a nerd...
  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @11:17AM (#31464036)
    They really need to beware of predatory lending practices when financing these habitats... they could very easily become underwater on their mortgage!
  • Seriously, I'd be afraid living at the bottom of the sea, because of abyssal gigantism (look it up!). This may be a bit irrational on my part, but there's some HUGE monsters, and over time we just seem to discover scarier and huger ones, like Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni. Even if it turned out to be perfectly safe, I'd be harboring an irrational fear of these beasts CRUSHING MY HOUSE while I lived there. Yikes!
  • James Bond has already dealt with this menace

  • by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @12:09PM (#31464376) Journal

    There have been underwater habitats off of key largo for a while now, since the sixties, at least, and from what I've seen (in ads for UW vacations, and a discovery special about a UMD research vessel) they're pretty cramped. Also, they're saturation dives albeit shallow ones.

    I wouldn't want to live in anything with a moon pool for the saturation reason alone, leaving out the small space and constant danger. It certainly wouldn't be a good place to raise a family (what would extended saturation dives do for children's developing bones, I wonder.)

    Considering the expense and danger, these things will always be just a curiosity. A pretty neat one, though. I wish they'd kept the Abyss set open for dive tourism. That would've been a pretty awesome dive.

  • Hygiene (Score:5, Interesting)

    by IonOtter ( 629215 ) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @12:59PM (#31464668) Homepage

    The thing they didn't cover very much, is the one thing that is actually most important: hygiene.

    Bacteria and especially fungi absolutely thrive under pressure, and a mild case of Athlete's Foot can rapidly become severe, even hazardous as the infection gets worse. Fungal infections were one of the most serious problems onboard the previous endeavors, as they were impossible to eradicate once established in the living areas. Bacterial infections were even more dangerous, as the partial pressure ratio of gases in the atmosphere-and also the bloodstream-effectively doubles, giving the bugs plenty of fuel.

    They did touch on the hygiene issue with the shower, but didn't say why other than the obvious reasons? But if you're going to live underwater, under more than one atmosphere, hygiene becomes absolutely vital.

  • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Saturday March 13, 2010 @01:31PM (#31464850)

    Dennis Chamberland: "So, the key problem is carbon dioxide scrubbing"

    Interviewer: "And you've solved it?"

    Dennis Chamberland: "Yep!"

    Interviewer: "So, what is it?"

    Dennis Chamberland: "I'd lose my patent if I told you."

    So, basically, he wants us all to live underwater, paying patent royalties to him. You'll be paying for two gas bills- one to heat your underwater habitat, the other to breathe.

    I'd really like to know how someone working on this for NASA managed to get a patent. That patent should be public property.

    • 1. Patents only last a very limited time. in 40 or 50 years, when people may start seriously looking at this option, the patent on his CO2 scrubber will be long gone. 2. Its been known for a long time that in places where Oxygen is not naturally found, you're going to have to pay for it somehow. Under water and in space, oxygen is not a guarantee, and work must be done to produce breathable atmosphere. Why do you think that work should be done for free? It will either be done by some entrepreneur, who
    • Dennis Chamberland: "I'd lose my patent if I told you."

      Can that actually happen?

      My understanding was that the whole point of patents is that you could tell everybody about your invention and still keep a claim to exclusive licensing power.

      • by Tim C ( 15259 )

        Indeed. In fact in the patent itself you are supposed to describe the invention in enough detail that an expert in the field could implement it from that description. That's the deal - you get a government-mandated, limited-time monopoly, we get the full details of your invention so we can utilise it when that monopoly ends.

        I am not a lawyer or a patent examiner, but it sounds like bullshit to me.

      • by BillX ( 307153 )

        If so, it means it's a patent application he's "thinking about" but hasn't actually filed yet.

    • Carbon dioxide scrubbing is already a solved problem. You mix baking soda with quick lime (CaO) and produce limestone. You then heat up the limestone and release the carbon dioxide gas in a closed container.

      If he does have a better CO2 capture method, he should use it to capture CO2 from the air, as CO2 + Hydrogen = gasoline.
    • He’s a total idiot:

      Dennis Chamberland: "I'd lose my patent if I told you."

      All patents are by definition published openly! Or else nobody could check if it’s patented. Here’s one I found in a 5 second Google search: []

  • Under the sea,
    under the sea.
    No accusations,
    just friendly crustaceans,
    under the sea.

  • The video isn't playing for me. Is there another version out there? I found this: [] , but it's only a short ad.

  • It's very peculiar that nowhere in the discussion here or Chamberland's video does anyone mention NOAA's Aquarius habitat, in operation since 1988: [] . Aquarius has been in operation as a civilian research station underwater off Key Largo for years. Before that it was in the Virgin Islands. It is operated by NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) for marine biology research and NASA training. It's an amazing place where researchers get to do 10-day research pr

  • I saw the movie where everything is almost underwater in the movie 2012, and i think learning to build big mobile underwater habitats is a wickedly good idea, just in case...i'm just saying

"You must have an IQ of at least half a million." -- Popeye