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Why not build submersible seasteads that dive beneath storms?

While it is possible to escape the full force of an ocean storm by submerging beneath the waves, it is not simple or cheap. To completely escape the sub-surface pressure variations from severe waves, one would have to be more than 500 feet below the surface. A small submersible would likely be tumbled about severely at depths less than 100 feet. Even larger vessels like military submarines have to dive deeper than 100 feet to ride comfortably in stormy seas. Moreover, these pressure variations can increase the structural loads on the hull, and are particularly worrisome because of the additional loads imposed on windows and doorways that are often envisioned for submerged seasteads.

Submersible seasteads are certainly possible, but are not cheap relative to floating seasteads. Submerged vessels must have sufficiently sophisticated and reliable ballast systems that will allow them to accurately maintain their target depth. For a vessel on the surface, floating is relatively easy, because there is ‘reserve’ buoyancy in the hull; if weight is added or buoyancy is lost (due to a leak), the hull can continue to float, albeit at a deeper waterline. But for a vessel below the surface, there is no ‘reserve’ buoyancy; if it springs a leak or simply wants to return to the surface, it must eject water from its ballast tanks or otherwise increase its buoyancy.

The Institute neither encourages nor endorses the idea of building submersible seasteads for the purpose of avoiding weather hazards at sea.

See this blog post by Director of Engineering George Petrie for a longer discussion of submersible seasteads.

Posted in: Seasteading Safety

Posted on March 26, 2012 at 4:46 pm


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