Exploring the seas and the oceans like no other vessel before it, SeaOrbiter plans to drift around the world propelled by sea and ocean currents – allowing continuous 360° observation of the acquatic world. It is hoped that the journey will be the longest period humans have spent under the sea. The aim is to research marine eco-sytems and climate change, and also to educate future generations on the importance of the marine world.
Rather fittingly the headquarters of SeaOrbiter is floating on the river Seine in Paris, France. The man behind the project is French architect Jacques Rougerie who has had a lifelong fascination with the aquatic universe. He says that although oceans cover around 70% of our planet they are relatively un-explored.
Jacques Rougerie, President and Founder of SeaOrbiter, said: “There is everything to explore and discover under the sea. Most simply we have to understand the biodiversity of our seas, migration patterns, and the food of the future, the pharmacology of the future, and all the energy that we can harness, the renewable energy from the oceans that we can use, it’s the blue economy of tomorrow.”
SeaOrbiter will have a crew of 18, including scientists and researchers. There will also be a team of divers living beneath the surface of the ocean in a pressurized module with continuous access to the sea.
SeaOrbiter will be 51m tall. A miniature version has been tested for seaworthiness and safety at one of Europe’s largst simulation laboratories, Marintek in Norway.
Jacques Rougeie, President and Founder of SeaOrbiter: “They tested and validated this model. They also optimised the floater to give the vessel greater stability. Some of the crew are going to live in saturation, which means that we will equalise the air pressure with the water pressure so that they can go out into the sea as many times as often as they want to, practically whatever the weather conditions are above the surface.”
The enthusiastic team dedicated to the SeaOrbiter project hope that the hi-tech research and analytical facilities onboard as well as communication devices linked to terrestrial research centres will enable them to make new discoveries.
Ariel Fuchs, a former marine biologist, is the Director of the Science Programme. Among his aims is a better understanding of the effects of climate change.
Ariel Fuchs, Director of Scientific Programme: “The ocean is the powerhouse of the planet. It regulates our climate, through water-atmosphere interface exchanges. SeaOrbiter will be at this interface and will be able to analyse all the parametres constantly as well as analysing climatic changes as they happen. All this is linked to climate change.”
If all goes to plan, construction is due to begin next year. Once completed it will be extensively tested in the Mediterranean and, sometime in 2014, SeaOrbiter will be launched into the Gulf Stream - and cast adrift for a number of years.
That moment will be the pinnacle of a lifetime’s work for Jacques Rougerie - work he hopes will inspire future generations: “My biggest dream for SeaOrbiter, and God knows I have dreams… but this is a magnificent dream. With SeaOrbiter, we manage to shock young people into understanding that they have a future. We want to create vocations. We want young people to build their own future. We want them to understand that the ocean is one of the major elements in the destiny of future civilisations.”
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