The Science of the Sea Has a New Toy

by Jeremy Griffith
The American Millennium

The Sea Orbiter as conceived in its final form.

The Sea Orbiter as conceived in its final form.

It looks like a giant fish hook floating upright in the ocean, but if this dream reaches fruition, the Sea Orbiter will become a vessel and mobile aquatic lab that will give scientists and researchers new unrestricted access to the wonders of the sea.

Like something out of Jules Vern, the Sea Orbiter is the brain child of French architect Jacques Rougerie. An info graphic and story about the orbiter appears in June’s edition of Popular Science in an article by Ajai Raj. If fully constructed, the orbiter will act as a mobile lab that gives researchers 24/7 access to the ocean. Part of the vessel will be submerged so that sailors, under pressurized conditions called saturation, won’t have to resurface every time they are done with a mission, so they can stay under water and continue their work for longer periods.

So far the $44 million project is little more than an idea, but the Raj article says that funding has started through crowdsourcing web activity and construction on the above the water line portion of the vessel, known as “The Eye”, has begun.

The lab will have a crew who operate the vessel, above water researchers and below the water divers who will work in concert to gather data about our oceans. They will also have media personnel who will parse the data and create educational content that can be transmitted through multi-media, presumably to classrooms around the world. This is to raise awareness of the issues revolving around the preservation of the natural researchers of the sea.

Scientists know more about the surface of the moon and Mars than they do about our own seafloor. -Ajai Raj, Popular Science

I love the idea of the vessel and its mission. If used appropriately, it can vastly improve our knowledge of the oceans that is sorely lacking. Raj writes: Scientists know more about the surface of the moon and Mars than they do about our own seafloor. With projects like this one, things are about to change. Unlike the surface of the moon and Mars, the sea may hold the answer to new medicine and technology, and perhaps even energy exploration.

It would however, be floating the open seas in a world that is less than ideal. With terrorism and piracy increasing in our world’s oceans, I would think that the investors in this project would have to insist on armed escort vessels that would support this observational platform with armed security aimed at protecting the crew, ship and the investors’ capitol.

Take a look at the website for more information on the Sea Orbiter here, or pick up a copy of Popular Science.

The Sea Orbiter diagram

The Sea Orbiter diagram

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