Monday, February 11, 2008

Living Undersea:

Dreams of living underwater are not new. However, it was only with the development of the first submarines in the 19th century, and later with the development of scuba gear that the dream began to be be considered a real possibility. In the 1960's there was an explosion of interest both in space colonization and in undersea colonies, and NASA was instrumental in developing both. The petrochemical industry was an early proponent of undersea habitats for the purpose of deep-water petroleum drilling. The worlds first experiments in undersea living, pioneered by Jacques Cousteau, were in large part funded by the French petroleum industry- though Cousteau later radically distanced himself from projects involving further exploitation of the sea and became an activist for the conservation of ocean ecosystems.

Actual experiments and Successful Habitat Operations

Continental Shelf Habitat II

Made famous in Jacques Cousteau's documentary film "World Without Sun" (Le Monde Sans Soleil) the Continental Shelf Station II or Conshelf II was the first major attempt at an undersea habitat, funded in large part by the French petroleum industry, who saw such experiments as necessary to open up the undersea world to economic exploitation*. (*Cousteau later rescinded his support for such projects, calling the worlds attention to the necessity of preserving the worlds oceans in the face of ever greater exploitation.) The first Conshelf station was a much smaller affair and submerged in only 10 meters of water off the coast of Marseille.

The later Conshelf III station succeeded in establishing a habitat at 100 meters.


The U.S. Navy established a program of undersea habitats called SEALAB in order to study and improve techniques such as saturation diving, underwater rescue, and to test the endurance of divers.

The first SEALAB was placed in 58 meters of water off the coast of Bermuda in 1964.

The second SEALAB was in 62 meters of water in the La Jolle Canyon off the California coast in 1965.

The third SEALAB, a modified SEALAB II, was lowered in 185 meters of water off St. Clemente island off the California coast in 1969, but after a fatal accident and some alleged sabotage attempts the program was shut down out of safety concerns.

See the Naval Undersea Museum's SEALAB site for more information.

Jacques Rougerie's Galathee- tested in 1976. This mobile habitat had a capacity for 4-7 people.

Undersea Colonies

Atlantic I and II

These people appear to be serious, but their project appears to be not much more than a slightly scaled up version of Jaques Cousteaus undersea habitats or the U.S. Navy's former Sea Labs. I imagine that living in anything that small a group of people will experience all the problems of a space station as well as the political issues common to visionary communes. Best of luck though!

Proposed Undersea Habitats, Villages, Workstations, etc.

A proposed undersea village entitled "UNDERWATER LIFE UNITIES" by architect Jacques Rougerie for a NOAA and NASA study, 1973. The village would have housed between 50 and 250 people in the waters off the Virgin Islands.

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