(updated 30.08.2022; complete re-edit) CalamarPark (a branch of Cabrito Consulting) is located in Germany. It is an independent ‘Initiative for Studies on Aquanautic‘ founded in 2006. Our aim is to develop a new generation of modular, serial underwater habitats for human occupation with emphasis on the human factor and habitability. The main facility and its mobile module will be open to several purposes, such as underwater archaeology, specialized tourism, space training missions etc. Within this scope we are convinced that this is the best approach to attract attention for the marine habitat and increase interest to its environmental issues.
The proposed underwater habitat should serve inter-/multidisciplinary and international goals. Doubtless it will be of great benefit for any supporting company or regional administration. CalamarPark has extended experience in several corresponding sectors and established a large network of underwater specialists. Based on this network CalamarPark will act as an agency to bring together the best manufacturers for the different components of the habitat.
The subject of underwater habitation is closely related to saturation diving. A body is saturated with inert gas during a stay of several hours at a certain depth, so its decompression time from that depth does not increase further. The inhabitant of an underwater station is thus automatically in a saturated state, so that a sudden emergence to the surface is no longer an option. This final decompression time can be very long depending on the depth. Divers of Aquarius Reef Base in Florida at a depth of 19m decompress for 15 hours and 45 minutes in the end of a mission. They spend this time within the closed habitat, while the pressure is slowly adjusted to that of the water surface. A short recompression follows at the end so that the divers can leave the habitat as after an ordinary dive and emerge to the surface.
The 60’s and 70’s witnessed a race for dominance on the seabed. The reason for this was the search for suitable techniques for oil production, as well as scientific and military programs. Many countries developed and launched a total of appr. 65 habitats for this purpose. The development eventually led to the construction of Sealab II with a living space of 63m2, which allowed people to live for long periods at a depth of more than 60 metres. Jacques Cousteau built a habitat which he used successfully for several weeks at 100m of depth. The results of these programs laid the foundation for modern offshore diving. Today only two remarkable habitats are still in use. Aquarius Reef Base in 20m depth, and the former habitat La Chalupa, today Jules Undersea Lodge, a 9m deep underwater hotel. The use of underwater habitats for industrial purposes was ultimately replaced by mobile saturation diving facilities in the hulls of corresponding ships, whose divers living in onboard pressure chambers are brought to their operation depth with pressure capsules and after a few hours in the same way back. (Miller and Koblick, 1984) Underwater stations thus tragically abolished themselves through their own further development.
In recent years, however, there has been a growing interest in the possibility of living underwater by giving up to serve only one sector; interdisciplinary and civilian users are now on the list of potential customers. Spectacular projects such as Poseidon Resorts, Hydropolis or Sea Orbiter combine tourism and science and were very close to be realized. In Italy, several participants of a television show called Progetto Abissi lived in small habitats. Conrad Maldives Rangali Island built Ithaa, an underwater restaurant with a worth of five million dollars and Muraka, a spectacular underwater hotel room.
At the same time, new technologies for remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are rapidly developed, reaching easily any depth and allow studies to be carried out without endangering human life. However, voices like the American aquanaut Dr. Sylvia Earle claim that “we have to maintain a human presence on the seafloor” (Earle, 2012)
In 2018 Martin Henke proposed the concept of an International Underwater Station similar to the ISS on the 21. Underwater Science and Technology Meeting. Several other endeavors started their venture to build a permanent living environment for human occupation under the sea. In 2020 Fabien Cousteau, grandson of the famous french oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, took up the same idea of an underwater ISS and introduced his proposal for an underwater research station named Proteus off the coast of Curacao, which is planned to open in 2024.
In 2021 we agreed with Peter Weiss and Spartan Space to develop a mobile habitat for interdisciplinary applications as part of a Mediterranean Undersea Research Station. Emphasis will be on compatibility with future modules. For several years Peter Weiss was member of the executive board of COMEX, manager of R&D and industrial projects in the field of space technology, subsea engineering & robotics and marine renewables, leader of the Diving Support team at the European Astronaut Centre EAC. His new company Spartan Space concentrates on manned habitats for space and underwater applications.
Also in 2021 we started a cooperation with Michael Schutte, naval architect and designer of proposed Poseidon Undersea Resorts, and gained support from renowned underwater archaeologist Assoc. Prof. Dr. Hakan Öniz, (Head of the Department of Restoration and Conservation of Cultural Heritage, and Head of the Division of Mediterranean Underwater Cultural Heritage, Institute of Mediterranean Civilizations Research – Akdeniz University; Secretary of ICOMOS International Committee of Underwater Cultural Heritage) especially for the mobile module to be used in archaeology research projects.
In 2022 we called some of the senior names of the Hydrospace Technology sectors to the “Seafloor Habitat 2.0 – Ignition Con” to officially close the first generation of underwater habitats and open the second. Participants ranged from Sylvia Earle, Jacques Rougerie, Michael Schutte, Peter Weiss (Spartan Space), James W. Miller, Ian Koblick and many more. The conference was very successful and was belatedly endorsed as an official activity of the United Nations Ocean Decade. The common conclusion was, that there is no replacement for humans on the seafloor. (Recording available at: https://youtu.be/HhfShKtI66A)
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.
- Dieter Heinz – Regional Sales for MARES, SSI and HEAD Swimming, Austria; former GM of MARES SSI, Philippines
- Benjamin Kuch – PhD from Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa, Italy for his research in decompression algorithms, embedded systems for underwater applications and underwater navigation, Austria
- Prof. Bob Stone – former Director of the Human Interfaces Team, University of Birmingham, UK
CalamarPark has been working on potential applications of underwater habitats for human occupation and came to several conclusions: It is obvious that no single institution would be willing or able to build a habitat or rent an industrial diving facility, for example, for the exploration of a historical wreck. So the question arose, how a habitat could serve various sectors to maintain its own funding.
For this question, the following sectors were defined and surveyed:
- marine conservation
- space agency training
- education (incl. citizen science)
- private civil participation
- arts & culture
- marine sciences (oceanography, underwater archaeology…)
- human health and new medicines from the marine environment
The result of these surveys led to the concept of a semi-permanent modular underwater habitat for use in the Mediterranean or surrounding waters, which directly neighbors 42 countries of the EUROMED region, each with its own programs in the above-mentioned sectors. Depending on the individual mission goal it could be used at different depths.
It is intended that this habitat will serve as a precursor and first step of a larger structure providing large spaces for appropriate habitation. This habitat is to be extended with additional modules and will serve as the main base for other laboratories in the vicinity at various depths. It will be part of a development park that will be open to, assist and promote external ventures to develop new habitat concepts and their components in order to explore new living environments.
‘realistic, cost effective and scaleable – trifecta of intelligent design’
Liz Taylor, President of DOER Marine,
on CalamarPark’s “Hangar II” design
As for stations in the arctic, space or on the moon there are unforeseeable benefits of a seabed habitation. One of the greatest accomplishments will be the direct and personal message, that the marine environment is not a distant and abstract term, but a vital part of our planets integrity.
Further Information and Contact
Our project page CalamarPark.com
on LinkedIn linkedin.com/company/calamarpark/
Martin Henke mart@CalamarPark.com
Calamar Park / Cabrito Consulting Langgasse 59, 55237 Flonheim, Germany; USt-ID.: DE272141919
- J. White (2012). We need to maintain a human presence under the sea, New Scientist, newscientist.com
- I. Koblick, J. W. Miller (1984). Living and Working in the Sea, Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, New York
- H. Lettnin (1998). Tauchen mit Mischgas, Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg
- B. Hellwarth (2012). Sealab, America’s forgotten quest to live and work on the ocean floor, Simon & Schuster, New York
- M. Henke, Proceedings of the 21st underwater science and technology meeting, 16.-17. Nov. 2018, Antalya, page 58-62
Summary of the key properties
CalamarPark’s manned habitat proposal intends to create useful space for interdisciplinary purposes on the seafloor. Therefore we defined 9 potential mission conducting sectors as well as 9 potential mission funding partners.
The first module will be fully functional and offers space for 4 inhabitants and 2 technicians.
The preferred location is the Mediterranean Sea, covering 42 countries (including 27 EU countries) between Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa (aka EUROMED) and their individual science and industrial programmes.
The concept targets a corresponding Development Park, providing the infrastructure for its own and other seafloor habitat projects. External projects will have the possibility to dock onto the main structure.
Outstanding Design Features
- Modularity; each module includes standardized docking collars for docking and to-be-docked to other extensions
- Habitability; emphasis on the human factor and potential long-term accommodation
- Serial Production Design; one fully approved static plan to be reused for future habitats
- Full Integration; ballast, trunk, pillars etc. are integrated into the main system
- Semi-Permanent Main Structure (able to change location after medium long periods)
- Optional Mobile and Inflatable Habitat; dockable to the main habitat
- Ability to float; the habitat is built on a floatable frame/barge
- Ability to be towed; the design allow the habitat to be towed to a different location
- Adjustable Pillars; hydraulic pillars allow alignment to uneven seafloor
- Drift Resistance
- Attractive Design to maintain public interest
- Mission-independent Event Plans to maintain constant financial sustainability
This feature will offer three uniquenesses:
- a standardized docking collar, which specifications will be publicly available and allow other institutions to develop their own habitat and dock it to the main structure
- special quotas for underserved communities and developing countries
- a special program to allow different enterprises to use our infrastructure for their purposes
- Rated for depths up to 50m (164 ft), covering 25% of the epipelagic zone / continental shelf
- Suited for operation in ambient pressure and surface pressure
- Deployable at any desired depth between 10m and 50m
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 very different to former habitats. 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, an on-surface observatory with glass bottoms, 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.
Another part of the park will be the hub, which will allow external projects to connect to the infrastructure set up for this purpose for electricity, water, communications, data traffic and logistics. Calamar Park will thus become a testing ground for new approaches to long underwater stays.
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 favored shape is the “Draft No.5: Hangar with right angular docking keys” 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.
Until now we defined the following potential applications and started talks with senior leaders:
- marine sciences (oceanography, underwater archaeology…)
- environmental protection
- space agency training
- private civil participation
- human health and new medicines from the marine environment
At the same time this project 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 fulfill 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. Without suit we are unable to maintain the appropriate body temperature and are vulnerable to all kind of marine life; underwater we are unable to speak, we are unable to use our hearing sense 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
To get a more detailed overview of desired features for the habitat, please visit the page “Structural Shape – General Considerations“.
I worked as a habitat technician and support diver at the Aquarius habitat, and a saturation technician in the commercial diving industry. I have studied the concept of a commercially viable undersea habitat at length and with several groups. My concept is a substantial habitat about 1.5x to 2x of Aquarius, using engineered and type approved fiberglass tanks that will withstand the external pressure required for in-habitat decompression. Since there is no welding, fitting out and modifications would not require repeating the hydrostatic testing required for classing. Corrosion and electrolysis are also eliminated. There is ample prior art for fiber… Read more »
Thank you, Rob, it’s good to have you here. We definitely need alternatives for the case, that we have to deal with strict classification issues. Maybe we can follow the fiberglass tanks concept parallel to the other shapes. I am still very curious about the SEALAB IV concept of yours and would be happy to get details about it. My only concern about fiber reinforced plastic is the chemical emission and the effect on human health especially when interacting with salt water. Is there any study about that? Scour never came to my mind, although I thought of potential sinking… Read more »
Great job with Ignition Con. Please reach out to me about how I can support what you are doing.