(updated 20.11.2017, resorted main steps; adding comparison of space of major habitats under ‘Modularity’) Project CalamarPark Undersea Station aims the development of a new generation of undersea settlements. Technically based on experiences of prior stations there will be several new considerations concerning expandability, size and usage. All results will be open-source (except some marketing details necessary for continuous popularity) and anybody who is interested has the chance to contribute his ideas. Until the minimum financial frame is completed we will go on collecting as many information as possible, implement them to a realistic blueprint and constantly improve the final design. Ultimately the final goal is the actual building of the habitat.
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Under the former project name of UnderwaterPromotion.com (see Who The Squid Are We?) we understood, that new approaches of Underwater Living are very popular. It showed clearly the demand and interest of new concepts for habitats on the ocean floor. Therefore we opened an online forum in 2007 to collect as many ideas as possible and in the next five years we had more than 200.000 interested readers and contributers (bots and search engines excluded). Examples for other approaches all around the world are sensational projects like ‘Poseidon Resort’ or ‘Hydropolis’ reaching great popularity worldwide.
Step by Step
We are absolutely convinced of the practicality of the undersea station project, but to reduce initial costs we have to start with the cheapest possible concepts. Therefore we will split it into separate steps:
- The first module will be used as a simple construction and experiment platform. It will consist of an inexpensive pressure-resistant tank (e.g. decommissioned gas tank), that will be refurbished and later be used as an emergency shelter, decompression chamber or mobile facility; the necessary link hatch to the main structure will be installed from the beginning. Operation will start in shallow waters with short-term visits (<=40 min.; within non-decompression time). This module will be transportable on a flatbed truck to every desirable location to be used as a mobile habitat for scientific (archaeological, oceanographic etc.) or training purposes. Trials in deeper water will be undertaken.
- A small emergency decompression facility (DDC) and life support buoy (LSB) on the surface as well as a simple shore center will be planned and built; start of event sequence and continuous media coverage
- With more and more features being added, first long-term stays (>40 min.) will be considered; funding for the next module. The main goal will be to find technical solutions to keep the day-to-day costs as low as possible without neglecting safety. Improving quality of DDC, LSB and shore center.
- Construction of the permanent second module, that will be linked to the first. With a targeted total dry space of more than 65m² it will be the largest underwater habitat ever built.
- A deeper branch and/or additional modules will be developed. Providing linking information to external groups and invite them to add their module. The remarkable size of the permanent main structure will make completely new purposes arise.
Living Space vs. Shelter
History shows that all previous undersea stations were not habitats in its actual sense, but shelters for short term stays. The new concept has to take account of the ‘human scale’ of living space. Therefore the rooms have to be designed accordingly, concerning shape and area. To expand the subjective reception of the living area, its colour concept, interior acoustics an privacy areas will be rethought completely. See also the Human Integration Design Handbook (NASA 2010) available on the CalamarPark Digital Library.
Features to be used for the first time
One of the main features of the new design will be the modularity. Different modules of different purposes can be attached without weakening the structures stability. Like this we can grow according to the current financial situation, and older modules can easily included into the expanded version. An inspiring example would be the International Space Station (ISS) that grew slowly until its final configuration.
Not being modular would bring the project to a deadlock preventing further development. The biggest ever built underwater habitat was Sealab II/III with about 65m² of dry space, which is far less than an average house built in 2009 in Germany (see grey balloon in the graphic below) and nearly a third of an average house in the US. Modularity was not an issue in Sealab; an increase of usable dry space would have had required the construction of a complete new habitat resulting in double expenses.
This modularity allows a final shape different to former habitats. Thinkable is the shape of a ring or octagon providing the opportunity to install windows in every room. There will be a center space in the middle of the ring, that can be used for a ‘wet lab’ outside the habitat under full supervision of the habitat crew from different view ports and easy lighting in dark conditions.
New York Designer André Dettler followed a similar idea when presenting a concept for a modular Space Station. The highest structural strength would have been reached at the final configuration.
Another feature will be the implementation of a connecting corridor. Until now all habitats were designed as one compartment with different areas or as a series of rooms with different functions. To reach one of those rooms you had to pass several others (see habitat ‘Tektite’). In the CalamarPark Undersea Habitat all rooms of the structure will be reachable over a corridor which is part of each module. This continuing corridor ensures reaching each room without passing all the others. Institutions will be able to rent their own space. Sleeping areas and machinery will be physically split from each other, while the corridor itself will be equipped with chatting tables beside windows to a the underwater world. A corridor like that might seem like dead space, but it is an inevitable part of the structure and an important architectural feature playing a huge role in establishing the human environment.
One part of the habitat will be an emergency shelter, decompression bell and visitor habitat in shallow waters nearby or linked to the main structure. Between missions anyone with the right physical condition will be able to enter this module of the station after a short introduction course. Inclusive descent, in-habitat duration and ascent the dive will be within the non-decompression time, requiring no decompression while returning to the surface. Visitors will get the full habitat experience without the risk of decompression injuries. These short visits in very small groups will provide an additional income to maintain daily operation.
Calamar-Park will not only consist of the habitat, but also of a surrounding park. This park will contain different kind of sculptures (see Deep Art Underwater Sculpture Exhibition), educational trails, freediving installations, a surface pool, areas for external habitat experiments and other additional projects. It aims to attract recreational divers to the surrounding of the habitat and creating a closer relation to the project and its environmental goals.
One feature of this park will be the Wet Lab, a lighted platform in the close proximity of the main habitat, fully observed via cameras and the viewports of the habitat itself. It will be open to all divers to develop new ideas to the collection of ‘100 Things to do Underwater’. During habitat missions this wet lab will be the experimental facility for evaluating new procedures of examining medium size archaeological artefacts or biological specimen without the necessity to bring them into the habitat.
Combining all contributions that reached us so far the latest and most favoured shape is the ‘Hangar’ (No. 4) draft as described under the ‘Structural Shape’ category:
Purpose – and the question ‘What for?’
“Without doubts one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century is promoting a deeper understanding for the oceans that after all covers 70% of our planet.” (Frank Schätzing, Nachrichten aus einem unbekannten Universum, 2007, p. 554-555, ISBN978-3-462-03786-9)
Finding a way to live on the seabed is very similar to space exploration: We can impossibly foresee the future potential of undersea stations. But it is our nature to face challenges. And, yes, there is no doubt that we have to change our view and behaviour to the world oceans. We have a surprisingly insufficient relation to the oceans leading to serious dangers in the marine ecology caused by neglect and unawareness. The undersea settlement will be the perfect tool to change this view and a reminder of the marine issues.
To achieve highest popularity it is vital to include civil participants. This goal will be achieved by the open-source idea, the concept of a surrounding underwater park and the use of online technologies to connect anyone with the underwater settlement. Still the undersea station will be absolutely independent of single-direction or political purposes, though strictly transparent.
It aims to create a dream to believe in; a medium to attract especially the younger generation to a life of progress, dedication, technology, science and ecology.
Anyone has experiences with a certain value. Any contribution, intellectual or financial, represents one opportunity to fulfil anyone’s duty as an ancestor of future human generations: to leave a trace in history.
Though we all developed from the sea and our bodies mainly consist of water we are not aquatic creatures anymore: without scuba equipment we can not breathe, without diving mask we can not see, without fins (or at least extra weights to walk on the seafloor) we can not move forward. Even with fins we are very slow and helpless in currents, just because our body structure does not have the ideal set of muscles to move the fins economically, while most divers even do not use the fins properly by only taking advantage of the propulsion of the upwards moved fin. Without suit we are unable to maintain the appropriate body temperature; underwater we are unable to speak, we are unable to use our hearing to localize sources of noise; we are unable to sense smells and our skin starts to dissolve after some hours in the salt water.
To live underwater we have to simulate a complete biosphere including food supply, light, breathing gas, heat, energy etc. And all of it in an extreme environment. Besides we are dealing with huge forces: the positive buoyancy of any air-filled habitat underwater is quite similar to the weight a crane has to bare on dry land if the habitat would be filled with water and hang on its boom. Since we can not build it inside the water, it has to be light enough to be moved from the shipyard into the water, towed over the moving surface of the sea to its operational site and lowered to the seafloor carefully, where it has to be moored and secured against drifts and bad weather conditions.
Beside the technical aspects sufficiently documented by approximately 65 habitats built between 1965 and 1977 it covers many various difficulties like sustainability, extensibility, physical and psychological health of inhabitants etc.
To keep the station running a well-thought marketing plan should be done. Different groups of participants may have different demands for example on accessibility, location or interior.
On the other hand technical developments make it a lot easier today. More efficient technologies like LED lighting require less energy that now might be generated by solar modules on the surface. The GSM net and the internet make it easier to submit the telemetry and to control the project remotely. Energy sufficiency of air-conditioners, refrigerators, monitors etc. have increased drastically.
Even if current projects in different parts of the world were stopped in the final stages the global echo shows the interest and potential. And all failures of others are not in vain. They produce new solutions and stronger foundations for future attempts.
Therefore it is not a question of whether we return to the ocean, but of when we will do so.
This should be an attempt to ignite the dream of living under the sea.
With best regards