Remember that crazy Chinese tower project that would be hundreds of meters high and house thousands of people, all on about two acres of land?
Since oceans and lakes make for about 2/3 of the planet’s surface, it seems like there’s a lot of space to spare for our ever-growing population… especially when we start running out of land to build on. (Remember that a lot of that land should be reserved for agriculture… because food!)
Can we — and would you — live in an underwater dwelling? Let’s have a look at some opinions about the feasibility of this interesting project.
We can actually do it
Underwater colonies are not new. In 1972, scientist Ian Koblick opened La Chalupa, after seeing a few underwater research laboratories opening across the world. Back then, the world was fascinated with Jacques Cousteau’s adventures and discoveries, so there was a lot of interest in living underwater.
However, this interest kind of faded away with time. Out of 12 habitats, only two are open today; only one is open to the public at large. You need to scuba dive to access it, too.
In a recent interview with the BBC, Koblick claimed that we currently have the technology to build habitats that would hold about 100 people. The infrastructure required to house those 100 people, however, is costly. It seems that our dependence on an energy source from outside is still a major obstacle to building bigger, self-sustaining underwater colonies.
Why colonize underwater?
Many proponents of underwater colonization hold that doing so is going to be cheaper and easier than colonizing space. In the case of an ecological catastrophe, for example, an underwater colony is easier to access than one on the Moon, or Mars for that matter. According to Koblick, only such an event would actually convince governments and companies to invest in underwater colonies; as long as the surface is relatively safe, why bother with the cost and risks of underwater habitats?
But there’s also a scientific reason for colonizing underwater. As of now, marine scientists can only spend a small part of their time underwater. Although there are a few underwater research stations, you can’t stay in them for very long. True, long-term underwater habitats would enable scientists to do more work under the sea.
And there’s a third reason for building underwater habitats: as the easily accessible minerals and resources on the surface become depleted, exploration and mining companies will have to find other sources–and much of it lies under billions of gallons of water. As of now, there is no urgency to develop these resources, but one day there might be enough of an interest for companies to invest in researching and developing viable long-term underwater colonies.
Underwater vs. space
The concept of developing underwater colonies on Earth comes from the same impetus as founding space colonies on the Moon or Mars. In fact, underwater living might be considered a sub-genre of science fiction; think of movies like Sphere, shows like Lost and games like BioShock, which all feature underwater stations (or entire cities).
In fact, we know less about the depth of our oceans than about space. NASA scientist Gene Feldman said:
But even with all the technology that we have today — satellites, buoys, underwater vehicles and ship tracks — we have better maps of the surface of Mars and the moon than we do the bottom of the ocean. We know very, very little about most of the ocean. This is especially true for the middle and deeper parts far away from the coasts.
When I first heard this fact, I was surprised. And then it made sense: it’s easier to maintain pressure in a pressure-less environment than to control pressure as it gets higher and higher–and at the bottom of the ocean, the pressure is many times that of the planet’s surface.
Would you move in?
So, if one day there was a condo building under the sea, would you move in? I wonder how different it would be to live surrounded by water and fish life than by cars and asphalt. I don’t know if I could handle the lack of sunlight, though.
What’s your take on underwater living? Is it a pipe dream or a possibility? Let us know in the comments!