San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Build Sea Bases, Not Drilling Rigs, Under the Ocean

The world has read a lot lately about the international space station, the space shuttle, the proposed Mars and moon bases, the search for other planets, and even mining asteroids. But it seems like the world has forgotten the final frontier on Earth: the ocean.

You would think we would have the ocean thing down before we start looking for other places in space. If we found a planet that was all ocean, we might have to keep looking for more planets because we still have not made a long-term base in our own ocean below 60 feet. How embarrassing would that be?

There is one undersea lab, dubbed Aquarius, operating 60 feet below the surface in the Florida Keys, owned by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA. NASA, the U.S. space agency, uses the facility to practice – guess what? – going to outer space. Nearby is the world’s only underwater hotel, the Jules’ Undersea Lodge. Very cool, but that’s all there is underwater in the whole wide world.

The closest we are to deep undersea bases are deep-sea drilling rigs. Clearly, we have a few things to learn. We can’t even fix a leaky pipe at less than half the average depth of Earth’s oceans. What would we do with a leaky pipe on, say, some asteroid? Perhaps it would help if there were more non-extraction projects like science labs or hotels to spur the growth of new tech with entrepreneurial spirit.

There is a lot of room for growth in the ocean. That means jobs. The last time anybody bothered to go to the deepest point on the planet was before the Rolling Stones were a band, in 1960. The NOAA undersea lab has been underwater a little longer than the Black Eyed Peas have been together.

Hopefully we will have more deep-sea stuff going on by the time Tica rising star Debi Nova is a dinosaur of pop.

If we can figure out the deep sea, the planet becomes a lot bigger for us. And we don’t need rockets, rocket scientists and rocket fuel to get down there; we could use a rock. Of course, life support and gear is another story, but come on, you know we can do it.

There would be a lot of money in it, and not just tech spin-offs and services. Bio-prospecting, minerals, fuel, tourism – and it just gets deeper and deeper. As you think it through, you can see that mastering exploring and living in the deep ocean should be a precursor to exploring and living in deep space.

We might not have to wait much longer for sea bases, anyway. With sea levels rising along with global warming, places like Puntarenas on Costa Rica’s Pacific and Limón on the Caribbean might develop into something like the undersea cities of science fiction.

For now, I would settle for a family spot on what may be the world’s first undersea colonies, the Atlantica and SeaBase projects. A SeaBase in Costa Rica’s waters would be ideal. Until then, I’ll dream of affording a family vacation at the Jules’ Undersea Lodge.

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