The Undersea Roadmap
Where Are We Now and How Did We Get Here?

      As of this writing, there are no permanent human bases, outposts, colonies or cities beneath the world’s oceans.  There are exactly zero humans who today count the undersea kingdom as their permanent home or have ever done so.
      A permanent human community is one that is defined as a habitat or clusters of habitats who have permanently claimed an ocean bottom site AND that community is occupied continuously by aquanauts with no limits to their mission.  There has never been a situation like that in history.
      There have, however, been a number of “camping trips” into the deep.  And one of them lasted as long as 69 days.  Rick Presley set the longest unbroken underwater duration stay by an aquanaut in 1991 living in the relatively opulent Jules Undersea Lodge located on the floor of a lagoon in Key Largo.  Except for Rick, all other human visits to a habitat beneath the sea have been shorter – and most of them much shorter.
      Robert Sténuit became the first aquanaut in 1962 when he lived onboard an incredibly cramped cylinder in the Mediterranean Sea for 24 hours. Since that time, 66 other manned undersea habitats have been built and used beneath the sea.

Fig 1

      Figure 1 shows that most of them have been used for short stays.  Twenty percent were designed for one or two days missions, more than 60 percent were designed for stays underwater of a week or less and 85 percent were only designed to allow the aquanaut an undersea visit of two weeks or less.  Only nine habitats that have ever been built allowed for underwater visits of more than two weeks: five for 30 days, one for 40-50 days, one for 50-60 days and one for 69 days.


Fig 2

      Figure 2 shows that a majority of every undersea habitat ever built was designed for a single use or single mission only (68%) and eight out of ten were retired after only two years of operation.  Six other habitats operated for five years before retiring and only eight have operated for up to a decade.
      Out of all the habitats ever designed and built, there are only three habitats currently engaged in more than half-time operations:  The MarineLab laboratory, The Jules Undersea Lodge and the US Aquarius undersea laboratory.  All of them are currently located within 15 miles of one another in Key Largo, Florida.  Of those three, two are relatively permanently moored: the MarineLab and the Jules, while the Aquarius is built for mobility and can be moved from one research post to another.  No habitat situation was ever designed for permanent manning.


Fig 3.

      Figure 3 provides a picture of habitat development since 1962.  A majority of manned habitats were built and used from 1962 until 1969 - some 75 percent! In the nearly four decades after that, only 16 habitats have been built and used in the world.
      Today there are five known fully operational habitats, in order of longevity:  The MarineLab, the Jules Undersea Lodge, the Aquarius, Bay Lab and the Leviathan (soon to be operational with scheduled missions.)  All the rest are retired.
 In each of these habitats, the human occupants who ventured more than 24 hours underwater became aquanauts – citizens of the deep.
      Since the first 24 hour stay under the sea, there have been more than 7,000 humans who have earned their aquanaut certifications in some 69 habitats.  These numbers are estimates, since careful records were not kept – but this data is close.
      As of this writing, of the 69 habitats that have been built, most aquanauts have been certified in only three of them.  The Jules Undersea Lodge holds the record of more than 3,800 recreational aquanaut certifications.  The MarineLab habitat located near it has certified more than 2,500 science and research aquanauts, the now retired NOAA Hydrolab certified around 360 aquanauts while the remaining 67 habitats certified the other 300 plus aquanauts.
      Of these, the vast majority of the certifications were for single 24 hour periods.  Less than five percent of aquanauts have stayed beneath the surface for periods greater than a single day and less than one percent for up to a week.  Records indicate than fewer than 25 individuals have lived and worked in a habitat for up to 30 days and there are probably fewer than 15 individuals who have accumulated more than 30 days living and working beneath the sea in a habitat.
      Were it not for the persistent genius and patience of Ian Koblick, chief designer of the La Chalupa scientific habitat (that has since become the Jules Undersea Lodge), the undersea world would be bereft of most of its card carrying citizens.  It is Ian Koblick alone that deserves more credit than any other individual in opening the oceans to its citizens as is clearly attested to by the statistics alone.
      But it is Chris Olstad, the laboratory manager of the MarineLab habitat at Koblick’s Marine Resources Development Foundation in Key Largo probably holds the record for more accumulated time in a habitat on the ocean floor.  His daily job since 1985 has been tending to MarineLab, and in so doing, he has accumulated thousands of man-days living and working out of a habitat in the sea.  No one individual even comes close to Chris.
 
 


Fig. 4

As an interesting comparison, Figure 4 compares the record holding single undersea habitat mission with the record holding space mission.  Rick Presley spent 69 days living and working in the sea compared to Valery Polyakov’s 438 day record in space.  The record in the supremely difficult to reach environment of space is surpassed more than six days to one when compared to the oceans which lay right at out feet!

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Much of this data was provided from "LIVING AND WORKING IN THE SEA" - Miller and Koblick.


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Copyright (c) 2007 by Dennis Chamberland - From UNDERSEA COLONIES - Quantum Editions
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