The short answer is yes, absolutely. The technology and the need exist. The real questions are, do human beings have the drive and curiosity to get it done? What would the benefits be if it was accomplished? And, how does it match up compared to the colonization of space?
Colonizing the Oceans versus Colonizing Space
Right now, groups like SpaceX are spending millions, and even billions of dollars, funding projects that are intended to bring humankind into outer space. This is a wonderful goal that has stimulated humankind’s collective imagination. But, there is another final frontier that is much closer and much more accessible–the ocean floor. While we reach into space, contemplate traveling millions of miles from earth, and creating a colony on Mars, we are neglecting another world below us.
What are the benefits of life underwater?
1. The colony will be much closer to “home”
Leaving home, being unable to see family and friends, and losing touch with the familiar, are some of the main reasons why astronauts, much less normal people, would struggle with life on another planet. On the ocean floor, land, air, family, and other cities are much closer. It’s hard to make the choice to leave the familiar behind, this means that it is far more likely that an underwater colony will thrive versus one on another planet. Plus, the world on land and the world below the sea could easily interact with one another.
2. It will help to solve overpopulation much quicker than the colonization of Mars
As we are all well aware, colonizing space is going to be massively expensive and take decades. It is also common knowledge that as a species we are at a tipping point in regards to climate change. This means that faster, more decisive action is needed if we are looking for a way to decrease the population or at least the density of populations. The ocean floor could be that solution.
There are now 7.5 billion people on earth and scientists believe that the planet cannot support more than 9 or 10 billion successfully. This is due to the limitations of freshwater, the ability to support livestock and human beings, and the availability of fertile land. The ocean could, by some estimates, increase the space we have to live on Earth by 50%.
3. The oceans could protect humankind in the case of a disaster
As horrifying as it sounds, the human beings living on the ocean floor would likely be protected from any possible apocalyptic disasters that befall those living on land. At the very least, some human beings would survive safety within their underwater structures.
4. We will learn what it takes to survive in space
One of the most notable benefits of learning how to live on the ocean floor is the experience and knowledge scientists would gain. This practical experience would make colonizing other planets easier. As previously stated, colonizing the ocean floor would be psychologically less challenging than colonizing another planet, but that doesn’t mean it would be easy. It is still likely that new inhabitants of the ocean floor colony would need time to adapt to their surroundings and would face some initial roadblocks to that occurring.
But, from that experience, much can be gained in terms of learning what it takes to travel a year or more in space, live on another planet millions of miles from home, and exist in a world where you cannot go outside without specialized equipment.
5. Food and water would not be a problem
One of the more obvious, although perhaps overlooked reasons that colonizing the ocean floor would benefit humankind, especially compared to colonizing space, is the easy access to food. Creating a sustainable colony on Mars, or any other planet, that does not need regular shipments of supplies from Earth is one of the more challenging aspects of colonizing outer space. But, under the sea, that would not be a problem. Even if it did at some point prove to be challenging, perhaps after the colony had become firmly established, it would be much simpler (and cheaper) to send food down to the seafloor than millions of miles through space.
6. Scientists would learn more than they ever have before about the oceans
It is a commonly quoted fact that humankind knows more about space than it does about the seafloor. An underwater colony would remedy this quickly with scientists being allowed unprecedented access to the minute to minute life of all creatures that live below the sea.
7. Ocean colonies are safer than space colonies
Life underwater has a variety of appeals for those of a scientific or exploration-based mindset. But, it also has something else to offer, especially compared to space–safety. It will be far easier to reach an underwater colony than to travel to space. Plus, as long as the colony is strategically positioned (such as in the Atlantic Ocean, near the equator), it will be safe from tsunamis and earthquakes.
Current Underwater Habitats
One of the biggest differences of life underwater is that science already has most of the technology it needs to make it happen. All that’s required is the desire to get it done. In fact, the Aquarius Reef Base, an underwater habitat, is proving that it is possible. The base is located in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, sitting at a depth of 62 feet on the ocean floor. It is actually one of three underwater laboratories in the world. The others are also located in Key Largo, Florida. Aquarius is used mostly by marine biologists as a home base for studying the coral reef it’s sitting next to, as well as the plants and fish that live nearby.
The base can support four scientists and two technicians for an average of ten days. The scientists, or “aquanauts,” who stay there go through a process known as saturation diving in which their body becomes saturated with dissolved gas, allowing them to stay underwater for prolonged periods of time and know exactly what they need to do to accurately decompress on their return to the surface.