IMPORTANT EVENTS IN OCEAN ENGINEERING HISTORY
"Establishing permanent seafloor outposts such as envisioned by the Atlantis Seafloor Colony Project are vital for gathering scientific data regarding the ocean environment in general. There are as many important unknowns on the seafloor as there are on the Moon or Mars." Mercury Astronaut and Sealab Aquanaut Scott Carpenter Comments on the Atlantis Seafloor Colony Project
Habitats are seafloor laboratory/living quarters in which saturated diver-scientists live and work under pressure for extended periods of time. Habitat divers dive from the surface and enter the habitat, or they may be compressed in a pressure vessel on the surface to the pressure of the habitat's storage depth and then be transferred to the habitat. Decompression may take place on the seafloor or in a surface decompression chamber after the completion of the divers' work.
CONSHELF II 1963. The purpose of the project was to record very basic observations on the psychological and physiological ramifications of life underwater at ambient pressure. Conshelf II placed five divers at a depth of 33 feet for a month, with two divers in a separate dwelling at 90 feet for a week. The project was a huge success, and demonstrated man's ability to live in saturation at depth, in comfort and safety. Read "Conshelf - Cousteauís Cutting Edge," By Ned Middleton
AQUARIUS "Pappa Topside." (before re-fabrication), AQUARIUS 1986, AQUARIUS 1998, The Aquarius, a more flexible and technologically advanced habitat system, has replaced the Hydrolab as NOAA's principal seafloor research laboratory. Aquarius is situated in the Florida Keys, and is available for use by research scientists. Teams of scientist enter the habitat for 10 day periods, and the entire program has been a critically acclaimed success. By visiting http://www.uncwil.edu/nurc/aquarius/ one can tune in to all missions live on video.
SEALAB I The U.S. Navy was quite interested in the physiological aspects of saturation diving, and in 1964 they sponsored the SeaLab project, eventually placing SeaLab III in over 600 feet of water.
SEALAB II Built 1965
TEKTITE I Tektite I & II were other leading U.S. habitat undertakings. Again, the sponsoring agencies carefully monitored the physiology of the occupants, but there was now an increased emphasis on the psychological aspects of living at depth in relative isolation. NASA became a leading sponsor of the programs in order to collect data relevant to the space program. One of the more notable Tektite II missions involved an all female team of aquanauts, lead by Sylvia Earle, recently Chief Scientist at NOAA. In July of 1970 the five-woman group spent two weeks in the habitat at 50 feet off of St. Johns, USVI.
LA CHALUPA Built 1972, renamed the Jules' Undersea Lodge 1986 ($325 per person per night). In 1986 Jules' Undersea Lodge made history when two former research aquanauts, Ian Koblick and Neil Monney, opened it as the world's first and only underwater hotel. But the history of this unique underwater habitat did not begin there. In the early 70's Jules' operated as the most successful and innovative research laboratory of its time. Known as La Chalupa research lab, it was used to explore the continental shelf off of the coast of Puerto Rico. Although Jules' Undersea a Lodge bears little resemblance to the austere working environment of an underwater lab, it still has some vestiges of its historical background. Guests of the hotel enjoy diving with a continuous air suppy from 120 foot hookah lines, a modified version of the hookah system which once supplied aquanauts with high volume air support to conduct research dives of up to 300 feet. The hotel still hosts occasional research projects. It has provided NASA with an economical method of exploring preliminary preparations for extended space travel.
Marine Resources Undersea Laboratory
HYDROLAB 1966-1985. The most famous and widely used habitat was NOAA's Hydrolab, which was based in the Bahamas and Caribbean from 1972 to 1985 and provided a base for more than 600 researchers from 9 countries during that time. In 1985, the Hydrolab was retired from service and now resides permanently in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
MarineLab Undersea Laboratory, 1980, original name: MEDUSA (Midshipmen Engineered and Designed Underwater Studies Apparatus). The structure is composed of a surplus steel water tank, 16 feet long and 8 feet in diameter. There is a 3 foot diameter observation port at one end of the cylinder, and a 66-inch diameter acrylic observation sphere mounted beneath the cylinder. This acrylic sphere was the test hull for the US Navy Submersible NEMO, which was developed by the Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory, and was designed for submerged operations to 100 feet. Access to the sphere is from inside the laboratory, making it a dry observation area. Location: Key Largo Undersea Park.
SeaRoom Floating Semi-submersible Residence A concept for the world's first true luxury seafloor ambient pressure habitat. A commercial semi-submersible floating structure available in a wide number of configurations. Permanently anchored from a four point mooring system. Commute by boat. Enjoy the underwater world in perfect comfort and safety.
Atlantis will be established on the continental shelf of North America east of the Florida coast directly beneath the Gulf Stream. Atlantis will be designated as principally a scientific community dedicated to intensive marine, biomedical and colonization research. It is intended that Atlantis will be continuously manned and establish human kind's first permanent presence on the seafloor.
Deep sea 'space station' An undersea base is envisioned on Penguin Bank in the Molokai Channel. Ocean Base One, first in the envisioned ocean station network, will be developed at a 600-foot depth at the edge of the continental shelf in Long Island Sound. Ocean Base Two would be established on Penguin Bank in the Molokai Channel, Malahoff said. It's close enough to Oahu to lay a power cable and about the same depth as the continental shelf, although it can drop deeper
For more information about UNDERWATER HABITATS read:
Miller, J.W. and Koblick, I.G. 1995. Living and Working in the Sea. 2nd Ed., Five Corners Publications, Ltd., ISBN 1-886699-01-1. This is the pre-eminent work on this subject and the only detailed overview yet published. Because so little work has been done on habitats since 1984, the information is still very pertinent.