Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Undersea bubble craft

Only in Popular Science: From research craft to family runabout in one cover illustration.


eon said...

What did this one in was the same set of brutal facts that doomed the 1960s dream of domed undersea colonies. Namely, that while artists' conceptions always showed magical undersea fairylands of colorful coral, pretty (and tasty) fish, and fascinating rock formations all brilliantly lit by the Sun filtered through the blue-green water, the reality was and is very different.

First of all, it's dark down there, especially once you get more than 30m below the surface, the bottom limit of the "sun zone". Second, instead of fantasy glass domes on colonies, or runabouts, you have to have steel or composite pressure hulls with only minimal viewport penetration to maintain structural integrity. Which makes sight-seeing a bit of a non-starter. (BTW, neither version of the SSRN Seaview nose on "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" made any sense from a safety standpoint, especially on a combat vessel. "Stingray" was even worse.)

Next, far from being "surface independent", any habitat or non-nuclear submersible is as support-dependent as a space mission; if you can't bring it with you, or get resupply when it runs out, you are SOL because, contrary to Scripture, "the sea" emphatically does not "provide". (Not even a lot of fish below the sun zone.)

And last but not least, below the top half of the sun zone, it's just plain farking cold down there. And the "habitats" and "personal vehicles" shown never seemed to have any provision for heating.

The two happy sight-seers shown here would be suffering hypothermia at least. And if they dared go below about 40 meters, they'd end up looking like a crushed pop can.

Their best bet would be to head for the surface before the batteries give out. Which they do pretty quickly at low temperatures. (Ask anybody from Woods' Hole.)



Sergej said...

I suppose you'd put your undersea colonies where it made any kind of sense. Water with coral living in it is clear, visibility to the horizon, or so it seems when you're down there. Cold, yes. Also damp. Don't go into the habitation module if you're allergic to mold.

Maybe if you're running a fish farm? What are grouper-meat futures going for these days?

eon said...


Sea-floor farming (i.e. kelp), and fish-farming were two of the big justifications for the domed city delusion back in the day.

In the end, it turned out to be cheaper to do both from the surface, the old-fashioned way.