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Futuristic SeaOrbiter vessel set for October construction


June 21, 2012

Recent developments have rumored that the SeaOrbiter is set to start construction in Octob...

Recent developments have rumored that the SeaOrbiter is set to start construction in October with possible completion in 2013.

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What once seemed science fiction may be becoming a reality. The futuristic SeaOrbiter ocean explorer, a concept conceived by French architect Jacques Rougerie, has been trying to reach fruition for the past twelve years. However recent developments suggest that the vessel is set to start construction this October, with possible completion in 2013.

The SeaOrbiter, if it goes ahead, will be the world’s first vertical ship to measure 51 meters (170 ft) in height. To realize this achievement more than 50 percent of the vessel will remain underwater. The project is expected to cost around US$52.7 million, with ambitions to observe and explore vast cross sections of oceanic life. Furthermore the SeaOrbiter hopes to implement a new standard of scientific communication that allows researchers to track and monitor marine life in real time. In doing so, a team of 18 marine scientists will live on board of the vessel. “This vertical vessel drifts in the currents hosting 18 oceanauts who will observe the life of the oceans on a permanent basis,” says Rougerie. “Marine life will naturally aggregate ... under its hull.”

The semi-submersible vessel will include an underwater chamber that delves 31 meters (102 ft) deep. Above deck is equipped with an open-air observation terrace, allowing the occupants to document migrating bird life, as well as enjoying some fresh air. The submerged sections will feature large portholes and panoramic windows, creating a state of the art underwater observatory.

The vessel will be installed with oceanographic observational and sonic equipment that will be linked to satellite facilities, while a multi-level atmospheric pressure module and a pressurized module will allow the “oceanauts” to live permanently in previously unexplored oceans. It is also anticipated that the vessel's design will include renewable energy initiatives such as solar, wind and wave power.

The SeaOrbiter project team at the 2012 International Expo in Yeosu, South Korea

The SeaOrbiter project will be presenting a 1:20 scale model of the ship to the public this month during the 2012 International Expo in Yeosu, South Korea.

Source: SeaOrbiter and Jacques Rougerie via CNN

About the Author
Bridget Borgobello Bridget is an experienced freelance writer, presenter and performer with a keen eye for innovative design and a passion for green technology. Australian born, Bridget currently resides in Rome and when not scribbling for Gizmag, she spends her time developing new web series content and independent cinema.   All articles by Bridget Borgobello

Scripps institute of Oceanography has been operating FLIP since 1962. It's a ship that doubles as a deep sea platform immune to wave action. When "flipped" it exposes 55 feet of it's hull to the air... and the remaining 300 feet are submerged vertically.


Yet this article states: "The SeaOrbiter, if it goes ahead, will be the world’s first vertical ship to measure 51 meters (170 ft) in height. To realize this achievement more than 50 percent of the vessel will remain underwater."

A little more about the science, technology, and history of these sorts of vessels would have been useful.

21st June, 2012 @ 07:34 am PDT

It's pretty but doesn't look like it would weather a bad storm. It looks more like a showcase for industrial design than a nautical innovation. Lots of fun in the Mediterranean -- not so much fun in the North Atlantic or hurricane season.

A truly innovative design would have included complete submersion to ride out big storms.

21st June, 2012 @ 08:37 am PDT

I am not as concerned about storms (such a large base under sea level should make it only a problem of sea sickness, especially for people up in the top) but rogue waves give me pause for concern.

Snake Oil Baron
21st June, 2012 @ 09:43 am PDT

The tax payers of which country will be paying for this collosal waste of money. France? The European Union? All the things these 18 "oceanauts" want to do is already being done on a continuous basis all over the world, cheaper.

21st June, 2012 @ 12:36 pm PDT

Actually it would do quite well in a storm. It would weathervane and move with the waves, much like a buoy. You could nail it with a rogue wave and the lack of side and frontal area would leave it alone to just float up and over like a cork.

Todd Dunning
21st June, 2012 @ 06:04 pm PDT

I do not feel concerned about its ocean going stability. The design looks inherently stable, although, as Snake Oil Baron says, those aloft might suffer seasickness in choppy conditions.

With a draught of 31metres, however, I would worry about the risk of running aground. If it did touch the bottom, then it would seem liable just to topple over. Clearly it will not come into any ports but there must be very many sea areas with insufficient depth to float this vessel.

22nd June, 2012 @ 09:28 am PDT

The more designs and functions one tries to add to a single project - the more overall performance will be lacking. The sacrifices would include speed, safety, fuel expense and navigating in shallow waters or reefs where much of the sea life exist. The designer seems to have more interest in appearance than a functional lab for scientist.

22nd June, 2012 @ 02:03 pm PDT

That would be a very heavy/ large mass to try and stop if headed for a reef or shoal. How do they propose to keep it away from dangerous areas? How would you dry-dock something like that to build it, or is it to be built in deep water? perhaps in fabricated sections?

" “Marine life will naturally aggregate ... under its hull.”" Why? If something that size came toward me, I would leave the area.

"It is also anticipated that the vessel's design will include renewable energy initiatives such as solar, wind and wave power." What percentage will be renewable and how much will be fossil fuels? What kind of propulsion (besides currents) for this drifter?

"The project is expected to cost around US$52.7 million," to build it. What about the yearly costs to maintain and feed the people and equipment?

And let me guess. these are private funds right? Not more of my tax money at work right?

22nd June, 2012 @ 02:08 pm PDT

I design some really different boats for a living and this will never float.

It's problem is one has to weight 64lbs/cu' for every cu' underwater. Thus this will cost way too much.

Not that a decent design could do the same job much better with only 30' of draft, have far more surface area for PV, wind, beach, housing, stores and still have all the underwater views you can stand with a retractable tower on top of a reasonable height ship.

22nd June, 2012 @ 04:35 pm PDT

Buoyancy increases as and object is forced into deeper water. If the side walls are 90 degrees to the surface - there is no buoyancy from the sides. A model in this case is not applicable because the true depth is not used.

Here is a fun experiment:

The question is: Take a long cylinder with a cap on the bottom end. Push it into deep water with the top remaining out. Now place the bottom in sand or mud so there is no water on the bottom. Keep it straight up and release. Will it go flying up to the surface or will it remain there?

If you said it would remain - you are correct as long as it remains at 90 degrees.

This project needs some full size testing before dipping into their wallets.

23rd June, 2012 @ 05:45 am PDT

We need a vessel to view our oceans in ways not possible before. Our future food supplies will count on our working knowledge of the ocean and the way different species use the currents.

I'm not an engineer, so I won't comment on its viability as a dependable vessel or its steering capabilities in stormy weather or strong currents. Lets hope for everyone's safety aboard, or in the monitoring ships that I'm sure will accompany it. It would be a shame if it were to damage reefs the environments safety should be a factor they consider. Most of these comments seem very negative. This is the first I've seen of this vessel have the backers or inventors got a bad rep or something?

I love the concept and hope and pray for the best results imaginable.


Mike Ross
25th June, 2012 @ 04:27 am PDT

The first of this kind: http://defense.aol.com/2012/06/25/bizarre-navy-flip-ship-turns-50/?ncid=txtlnkusaolp00000058

Richard Dicky Riddlebarger
28th June, 2012 @ 05:12 am PDT
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