TRAVEL

Book me a seat on the SeaOrbiter please!

I was doing my usual scanning of blogs and news pages today and came across the SeaOrbiter, this vertical sailing vessel could be the future of ocean exploration.

Designed by Jacques Rougerie, the plans look like something straight out of an episode of Star Trek – it’s quite an amazing sight and I’m guessing will be even more amazing to see it in real life floating in the ocean.

Standing at 51m (167ft) tall, the SeaOrbiter will be the world’s first vertical ship, and will allow scientists a revolutionary view of life in our oceans. It’s currently only in the prototype stage but Rougerie is sure the oceanographic station will be setting sail soon.  His aim is to create a space station under the sea to give an insight into our oceans, something which up till now has been limited. ‘At the moment, they [oceanographers] can dive only for short periods before they have to be brought back to the surface. It is as though they were taken to study the Amazon jungle and then helicoptered away again after an hour,’ Mr Rougerie told The Times.

‘SeaOrbiter will provide a permanent mobile presence with a window to what is under the surface of the sea.” The architect, who lives and works on houseboats, plans to launch 6 of the vessels. At present Rougerie says he has half the €35million ($55.6 million NZD) that it will cost to build the first one, and is confident of finding the rest.

Mr Rougerie, 64, said: ‘It’s only in the last 50 years that we have found out that there are seasons under water, with plants flowering, with deserts, forests and an intense life. ‘The food and medicines of the future will come from the ocean. We’re now starting to realise that oceans have a major role in the fragile equilibrium of our planet.’

When/if it does set sail, there will be 18 people on board the ship – 6 crew, 6 scientists and 6 others – these may be astronauts training in extreme conditions or doctors studying submarine human behaviour. The navigation tools, communications equipment and a lookout deck will rise above the surface of the sea. Under the water level, there will be a pressurised deck for divers to undertake daily missions over a period of months. ‘There will be a gym, because it’s very important to practise sport, entertainment with a video player above each bunk, and nice food. I’ll do the cooking myself and I’m a good cook,’ Mr Rougerie added. The ship’s anti-collision system is based on the one used by the international space station.

Mr Rougerie is confident that the ship will be built. ‘A year ago, it was 50-50,’ he said. ‘Now I would say it’s 90 per cent certain.’

Images and interview from The Daily Mail & The Times

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