'International Space Station of the Ocean' Proposed for Curaçao
Ocean explorer and environmentalist Fabien Cousteau has announced plans for the construction of an underwater scientific research station off the Caribbean island of Curaçao. The underwater habitat, named 'Proteus', will be, he says, be used to 'address humanity’s most critical concerns.'
'As our life support system, the ocean is indispensable to solving the planet’s biggest problems,' said Cousteau. 'Challenges created by climate change, rising sea levels, extreme storms and viruses represent a multi-trillion-dollar risk to the global economy. Despite the ocean representing over 99 per cent of our world’s living space, only 5 per cent has been explored to date.'
Details of the project published by the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center state that Proteus will be more than four times the size of previous underwater habitats, with an internal area of some 372 sqm accommodating up to 12 individuals at any given time.
The 'underwater version of the International Space Station' will feature state-of-the-art labs, sleeping quarters, a moon pool and an underwater greenhouse. Power will be generated by wind, solar and Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion, which utilises the thermal gradient between warm surface water and cooler, deeper waters to generate electricity. A video production facility will also be installed to provide live-streamed educational programming.
The research station will be located at a depth of 18m, off the shores of Curaçao, widely regarded as one of the most biodiverse regions of the Caribbean Sea, although a specific location has not yet been provided.
'We are delighted to be home to Proteus,' said Dr I. S. Martina, Minister of Economic Development for Curaçao. 'The economic potential of having the first underwater space station located in Curaçao’s waters is enormous, from job creation to tourism.'
Partners in the project's development include Northeastern University, Rutgers University, and the Caribbean Research and Management of Biodiversity, with the concept designs by Yves Béhar of design firm fuseproject.
'Proteus will transform how we conduct underwater science and engineering,' said Dr Mark Patterson, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Affairs in the College of Science at Northeastern University. 'The innovation cycle will be shortened by having a true laboratory underwater, rather than a simple living space like prior underwater habitats.'
Concept design for the back side of Proteus, by Yves Béhar and fuseproject.
Proteus follows the success of 2014's Mission 31, during which Fabien Cousteau and five 'aquanauts' remained at Aquarius, a small station in the Florida Keys for 31 days underwater.
Cousteau's grandfather, the legendary Jacques Cousteau, constructed three underwater habitats known as Conshelf I, II and III in the French Mediterranean and Sudanese Red Sea between 1962 and 1965.
No date has been set for the project to be completed, although it is expected to take three years from the start of construction. The concept has been welcomed by leading environmental researchers.
'Proteus is a hopeful step forward in spreading the message that we must protect the ocean as if our lives depend on it,' said Dr Sylvia Earle. 'Living underwater gives us the gift of time and the incredible perspective of being a resident on the reef. You're not just a visitor anymore.'