Yves Béhar and his firm Fuseproject has teamed up with aquanaut, ocean explorer, and environmentalist Fabien Cousteau to design Proteus, the world’s most advanced underwater scientific research station and habitat. A project of the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center (FCOLC), Proteus is conceived as the underwater version of the International Space Station; it will be a platform for global collaboration amongst the world’s leading researchers, academics, government agencies, and corporations to advance science to benefit the future of the planet.
“As our life support system, the Ocean is indispensable to solving the planet’s biggest problems. Challenges created by climate change, rising sea levels, extreme storms and viruses represent a multi-trillion-dollar risk to the global economy,” stated Fabien Cousteau. Surprisingly, despite the Ocean representing over 99% of our world’s living space, only 5% has been explored to date. ”Proteus, contemplated as the first in a network of underwater habitats, is essential to driving meaningful solutions that protect the future of our planet. The knowledge that will be uncovered underwater will forever change the way generations of humans live up above.”
Proteus is envisioned to be more than four times the size of any previously known underwater habitat, and will feature state-of-the-art labs, sleeping quarters, and a moon pool. Proteus will include the first underwater greenhouse, allowing inhabitants to grow fresh plant life for food, marking a unique approach to address some challenges that come with underwater living, such as not being allowed to cook with open flames. The habitat will be sustainably powered by hybrid sources including wind, solar, and Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC). It will include a full-scale video production facility to provide continuous live streaming for educational programming, and delivery of augmented and virtual reality to collaborators world-wide.
As the largest and most technologically advanced underwater station ever built, Proteustm will grant scientists and aquanauts the time to conduct continuous night and day diving and data collection. The Proteus marine research platform, amongst its many functions, will enable the discovery of new species of marine life, create a better understanding of how climate change affects the Ocean, and allow for the testing of advanced technologies for green power, aquaculture, and robotic exploration. Proteus allows divers to spend an entire day conducting research on the Ocean floor because they are saturated (when the bloodstream is equalized with suitable gasses at the pressure of the surrounding water). Saturation enables humans to live, work and explore underwater.
The onsite state-of-the-art labs will facilitate processing of organic samples that can be studied in real-time, rather than the specimens rapidly degrading or dying during the arduous journey to the surface and far-reaching land laboratories. On premise experimentation results in an enhanced pipeline to support the development of new treatments for cancer, antibiotics, vaccines, and much more.
Proteus will be located off of the Island of Curaçao, at a depth of 60 feet (3 atmospheres) in the richly biodiverse waters in a marine protected area of the Caribbean Sea.
“Proteus’s design intent is to offer an effective, comfortable and attractive facility for researchers, and an exciting underwater structure that garners the same passion for ocean exploration as we have for space exploration,” comments Yves Béhar. “The Proteus spiral architecture houses social and work spaces as well as a communication studio and a submersible moonpool. Proteus is both practical and an icon that will change the way we experience ocean research.”
At 4,000 square feet, Proteus will be three or four times the size of any previously built submarine habitats, accommodating up to twelve people at once. Attached to the ocean floor by legs designed to adapt to the variable terrain, the design is based on the concept of a spiral. A series of modular pods are attached to the main body of Proteus and accommodate a variety of uses such as laboratories, sleeping quarters, bathrooms, medical bays, life support systems and storage. The largest pod contains a moon pool allowing submersibles to dock. These pods can be attached or detached to adapt to the specific needs of the users over time.
The two levels of Proteus are connected by a spiral ramp to encourage physical activity and movement for the inhabitants. The ramp connects the main spaces within Proteus which are designed to feel inviting and comfortable, an approach which is a departure from most facilities of this nature which typically forego comfort and a sense of home in favor of cold utility. These common spaces include a living room, kitchen, dining, and work areas. Proteus will also have the first underwater greenhouse so residents can grow fresh plant food in order to solve the challenge of not being able to cook with open flames.
Two of the other biggest challenges to staying underwater for longer spans of time is the social isolation and lack of natural light. Proteus’s central spaces will provide physical comfort, social connection and professional collaboration. Additionally, the station will be designed to gather as much light as possible from windows, on the top, and around the sides of the structure.
My hope is that the same passion we have for space exploration and the space station will converge to our ocean station. With this first step, humans can interact with the very entity they hope to understand: our oceans. We can begin to lay the foundation for a more sustainable existence moving forward.