Are we 20 Years from Underwater Living?

Life on the high seas was seen as a lifestyle of adventure and travel in times past.  But new technologies could one day give us the very real possibility of life in the seas as well.  And with major mineral deposits discovered in just the past month near Japan of material once in short supply, this might become suddenly more plausible than ever.  Will we soon be seeing underwater cities as space comes in shorter supply and the need for deep sea mining and exploration increases?

A recent survey of an area just east of Japan revealed that a major deposit of rare Earth minerals had been discovered there.  Alongside a few of the typical rare minerals were some that recently China had been using or stockpiling to drive prices up.  And so the price would be finally reaching a point where mining such an out of the way location might become a viable option.  But if it was at the bottom of the ocean, might it be possible to use this as an opportunity to explore the advantages of building a city at the bottom of the ocean?

First, the structure itself would be an incredible feat.  It’s likely the system would have to be built as other underwater buildings have in the past.  Rather than building it and enclosing it, pumping water out afterward, it would be far easier to simply put together entire sections, submerge them, and then connect them either with long hallways or even tubes.  Depending on the size of any mining operation and/or processing center it might have to sustain anywhere from 10 to 1,000 people at any given time.

Next, we would have to consider the obvious needs involved.  Air would be a major issue, and enough plant-life would have to be present in order to sustain the population.  But rather than hauling trees or even small plants at first, the best method for storing air may be to simply utilize the oxygen provided by special algae vats sustained in de-pressurized pockets arranged throughout the facility.  Currently the majority of Earth’s oxygen is from sea plants, so the addition of several sea plants in an environment where they would not need the soils they’re used to would likely be the most effective source of oxygen.

Of course the actual administration of such an underwater city may be the most important aspect of all.  Due to its seclusion it would be easy to control imports and exports, but in the end the facility and everything in it would have to function very similarly to a space station complete with quarantine and limited contact with the surface.  For if any sort of illness of any sort entered the building, it would be difficult to contain.

While underwater cities may still be a far way off, futurists have been speculating over them for decades.  Unfortunately talks are far easier than actually building such a facility.