'Starship Enterprise Of The Sea': 190-Foot SeaOrbiter Will Explore Deep Ocean, Begin Construction Next Year [VIDEO]
The team behind SeaOrbiter, a massive Starship Enterprise-like explorer of the deep ocean, hopes to begin construction on the first part of the vessel next year. The $43 million project has been 30 years in the making, and will be the first ocean lab with a team living on it 24/7 for long stretches of time. The first crew will comprise 22 people and will explore the waters of Monaco.
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The brainchild of French architect Jacques Rougerie, the SeaOrbiter will be a slow-moving vessel that drifts along with ocean currents, powered by solar and wind energy. The 190-foot vessel will be half submerged and half above water, with the crew living and working in the underwater portion. The ability of the crew to live and work underwater for long periods of time--while going up to the above-water portion for fresh air--is what makes SeaOrbiter revolutionary, says Rougerie.
"At the moment, they [oceanographers] can dive only for short periods before they have to be brought back to the surface. It is as though they were taken to study the Amazon jungle and then helicoptered away again after an hour," said Rougerie. "SeaOrbiter will provide a permanent mobile presence with a window to what is under the surface of the sea."
Funding for SeaOrbiter has been difficult to obtain, leading to years of delay. In 2012, Engadget reported that construction on SeaOrbiter would begin by the end of the year, but that obviously didn't happen. SeaOrbiter executive director Ariel Fuchs says that it's been difficult to find funding because convincing people of the long-term goals of such an ambitious project is no easy task.
"The people we are asking for funding are only driven by the short term model," said Fuchs, speaking at the Pioneers Festival recently. "We get nothing from governments and other administration in Europe; it's too complicated for them...Exploration is a long-term investment and it leads to innovation. There is no exploration without innovation, but no innovation without vision. A society without exploration is a society with no future."
Fuchs and the SeaOrbiter team have turned to crowdfunding to make their deep sea explorer a reality. They've raised about $67,000 of their roughly $440,000 goal, (with 63 days remaining). The money raised from the crowdfunding campaign will be used to create the 59-foot "Eye of SeaOrbiter," the lookout post and communication system and the first part of the SeaOrbiter to be built (see pictures of it here). Construction of Eye of SeaOrbiter is slated to begin in France in Spring 2014.
Rougerie calls the SeaOrbiter "the synthesis of everything that we have been able to do at sea."
"It will not replace oceanographic boats or exploratory submarines," Rougerie wrote in an email to Fast Company. "Instead, it's another way to explore and better comprehend the underwater universe and bring human life at sea to another level on a 24/7 basis and over long periods."
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