Why haven't we colonized the oceans?

  1. Seriously. What are the engineering challenges of building underwater, (or floating) cities? What about mining the ocean floor? If we have found so much gold, iron, coal/etc in the Earth's landmasses, why haven't we thought to look to the Earth's crust underneath the oceans? Why do we leave 70% of the Earth's surface rendered useless?
  2. jcsd
  3. etudiant

    etudiant 931
    Gold Member

    Costs matter.
    We enjoy free life support on land, not so much on or worse under the ocean.
    So looking under the oceans is done rarely apart from oil and gas extraction.
    The few undersea coal mines that have been exploited have all been shut down, afaik, because their costs were too high. Note that all these mines were land based, with shafts extending under the sea bed.
  4. We also do use dredgers to comb the sea floor to mine for diamonds and gold and other minerals/metals. There are several large mining vessels which have their own processing facilities on board. (for instance: Peace in Africa - Diamond Mining Vessel)

    As for floating cities, or underwater cities, what would be the purpose for people to move out there? What potential return would justify the costs of construction and continued operation of such a venture?

    Would it be cool? Yea, for sure. But would it be practical? I'm not too certain about that one.

    For a truly practical city-ship (let's not get into underwater stuff), you would have to have something incredibly large. It would have to be able to produce at least some of it's produce and support some of it's required livestock (as it would be impractical and dangerous to have an entire city dependent on resources from land.

    A big issue would be water consumption. It would seem to me that such a vessel would require it's own desalination plant to produce drinking water. These plants use a lot of energy, so I'd say this would have to have a nuclear power station within it as well. Then, it would also have to have evacuation vessels. And likely, people would have individual transportation. There would need to be places of work. etc, etc, etc.

    Lot's of challenges, not the least of which are engineering related.
  5. Borek

    Staff: Mentor

    The day it will become profitable, we will colonize them.
  6. arildno

    arildno 11,265
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    The oceans already are colonized. Here in Norway. On oil drilling platforms, at least. But, nobody likes to live on them permanently, and typically work 14 days on, 14 days off shifts, commuting by helicopter.
    Besides, those are surface constructions. To get people to work BENEATH sea level, you'll either have to create job desperation due to extreme poverty, or, alternatively, be willing to pay your employees very handsomely, indeed.
  7. Hercuflea, do you understand capitalism? As Borek said, when it gets profitable, we WILL colonize them. Why would you want to waste money on something that costs more than it is worth? I mean, if it DIDN'T cost more than it is worth, companies would already be doing it. Companies LOVE to find things that are worth more than they cost.

    Don't point to the moon exploration. That's politics / national pride / stuff started in the cold war.
  8. SteamKing

    SteamKing 11,048
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    It's not like this idea hasn't already occurred to someone:


    One of the problems living on the surface of the ocean is dealing with the weather. Storms can be much fiercer over the ocean where there is nothing to divert high winds from developing. Strong winds blowing inevitably lead to high seas being generated, which are capable of damaging or destroying vessels or fixed structures in their paths. It's hard enough living on dry land.
  9. I put this thread in the engineering forum because I am specifically interested in the engineering challenges of building floating and underwater permanent human habitats. I am not interested in the economics of city building. I didn't ask you if we can pay for it, I asked how we would do it if we could? The same can be said about asteroid mining, it is too costly for current technology, etc, but we already have venture capital companies trying to accomplish just that. So I don;t want to hear the economic arguments, but I want to know what the best way to design and operate underwater habitats would be?
    Kelson Adams likes this.
  10. phyzguy

    phyzguy 2,503
    Science Advisor

    All engineering by nature includes economics. You can say, "What could I do if money were no concern?" but money is always a concern.
  11. Borek

    Staff: Mentor

    You are contradicting yourself.
  12. Sans economics? Build a giant holding tank in outer space where we can put all the ocean's water and sea/plant life for safe keeping. Then have at the ocean floor.

    But seriously, as others have said, engineering challenges are often challenges only becuase there are costs associated with everything, and many times these costs become astronomical. It's not that difficult to build things that will work, it's much more of a problem to build things that will work optimally for minimal costs.

    If you want a safe car without figuring in economics, buy a tank. But most people can't afford to buy and operate tanks, let alone reinforce their driveway to park one. So we buy Volvo's instead. But a lot of effort goes into making door panels on cars light enough that you don't have a 5 ton station wagon, but robust enough that you have adequate protection even at highway speeds.

    I gave a you a few engineering challenges in my post. I'm sure the link SteamKing provided lists many more. There's a LOT that goes into a project like that, I doubt engineering challenges would really be the biggest concern. Were it not for the economics factor, many, if not most, of these issues would be trivial.
  13. We did that already. Seems we preferred land.
  14. arildno

    arildno 11,265
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    Essentially, your question boil down to:
    Why don't people with lots of money throw them out of the window?

    They wouldn't have had lots of money in the first place if they were in the habit of throwing it away.
  15. +1 on that.
  16. AlephZero

    AlephZero 7,248
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    Agreed. Mostly, the people who think about things like "What could I do if money were no concern" work in Saies and Marketing, not Engineering. :devil:

    Hey, the sales and marketing people are here already: http://aboardtheworld.com/ Ignore the fact that it's basically just a never-ending round-the-world luxury cruise...
  17. thank you all for derailing my thread. Really, I thought PF mentors would be more mature than this.
  18. etudiant

    etudiant 931
    Gold Member

    Honestly, that is not a fair response.
    You asked a general question why we don't do something, many people answer that we do not because it is too costly for the advantages gained.
    Then you redefine the question to remove the economic element, which of course shifts the discussion into the speculative, which you do not like.
    The onus is on you to pose a constructive question, maybe just ask what constrains wider oceanic habitation/industrialization. My guess is that apart from economics, a lot is the jail like aspect of ocean living. Being confined to the platform or habitat or hull is hard to enjoy for long.
    Maybe once the structures get big enough, that will change, but big is costly. Shell is building a 600,000 ton floating natural gas processor that will never come to harbor, so the perpetual ship is perhaps not that far off.
  19. Here is a company that has already proposed mining the sea floor. http://www.nautilusminerals.com/s/Projects-Solwara.asp. The company already "owns" entire areas of the sea floor.

    I just wanted to talk about what the engineering challenges of such projects are and how they compare with land based mining. Also, in the distant future these mines could possibly support underwater habitats for workers. We already use nuclear reactors to power our AC's and submarines, why not a permanent colony? If the amount of precious metals we have found on land extrapolates to the ocean floor, there is a vast wealth of minerals down there to take.
  20. Reread post #6
  21. I am not an engineer but I would say the 2 biggest challenges to overcome are high seas and the stress put on the structure by wave action, first high seas could flood the compartments of the structure and sink it as well as wash people over bored. And 2ed the motion of the waves could rip the whole thing apart. One question that you have to consider is how big do you make your platform. I saw i video on youtube that you might find interesting, il link it if you want.
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