Fabien Cousteau, the grandson of French oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, has unveiled an underwater version of the International Space Station.
“Proteus” will be located 18m below the surface of the Caribbean, in a marine sanctuary off the coast of Curaçao.
According to the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Centre, the 370 sq m station will be the largest and most advanced underwater station yet built. It will have two levels, connected by a spiral ramp, containing a living room, kitchen, dining, and work areas, as well as the first underwater greenhouse to solve the challenge of not being able to cook with open flames.
There will also be wet and dry laboratories to allow samples to be viewed at depth, preventing them from degrading or dying during their journey to the surface. There will also be a video production facility to provide livestreamed images to the outside world.
The development, which was designed by San Francisco architect Fuseprojects, hopes to enable up to 12 scientists to discover new species, act as a base for robotic exploration and monitor changes in the ocean caused by climate change.
Sylvia Earle, marine biologist, said: “Living underwater gives the gift of time and the incredible perspective of being a resident on the reef. You’re not just a visitor anymore.”
Fabien Cousteau added: “Proteus, contemplated as the first in a network of underwater habitats, is essential to driving meaningful solutions to protect the future of our planet. The knowledge that will be uncovered underwater will forever change the way generations of humans live up above.”
The project, which is expected to take three years to complete, is being co-sponsored by Northeastern University, Rutgers University and the Caribbean Research and Management of Biodiversity Foundation. However, it does not yet have sufficient funding to name a start date.
The only underwater habitat that exists at present is the 37 sq m “Aquarius” in the Florida Keys, run by Florida University, which Cousteau stayed in with a team of aquanauts for 31 days in 2014.