Humans to permanently live underwater from 2027

DEEP, an ocean technology and exploration company whose purpose is to 'Make Humans Aquatic, will today announce its ambition for a permanent human presence under the oceans from 2027 by installing sub-sea stations that enable researchers to operate continuously down to 200 metres.

Written by Oceanographic Staff
Photographs by DEEP - Artists Impressions

A UK-based company will reveal in a press conference today that it seeks to establish permanent human presence on the ocean floor through its ambitious DEEP System that will allow researchers to stay underwater for extended periods of time.

“We need to preserve the oceans. To do that we need to understand them,” said Steve Etherton, president and EMEA of DEEP Research Labs Limited, founded in 2021. He continued: “The oceans sit at the centre of many of the generational challenges the world is facing, and they also offer opportunities we have not even begun to comprehend. They are the source of at least every other breath we take. They influence the weather. They influence the climate. They influence us. Yet, this life-sustaining ecosystem remains surprisingly unknown. Through our innovative technology, DEEP will enable scientists to operate at depth for extended periods of time and we hope, in some small way, will contribute to our understanding of this life-giving environment”.

The ambitious DEEP System that will be revealed today revolves around the Sentinel underwater habitat – an underwater station with direct ocean access, individual suites with showers and toilets, configurable workspaces, as well as social spaces, and communal rooms for meetings, and dining. DEEP’s intention is to place the Sentinel System on the ocean floor to give scientists and researchers the ability to stay underwater for longer.

“DEEP are at the beginning of an exciting journey; the Sentinel System sits at the centre of that, it’s been designed with a huge degree of flexibility both in terms of the missions it can fulfil and the scale with which it can do it,” explained Rick Goddard, director of DEEP Sentinels in an interview with Oceanographic.

“I look forward to seeing that potential realised across the full scope of marine science, exploration, and environmental research use cases! We’re doing something new here at a scale never previously imagined outside of science fiction, I fully expect the equipment and technology we’re developing to be pivotal in enabling some game-changing discoveries and radically change the way we access and think about the Ocean,” Goddard continued.

The Sentinel underwater habitat will be complemented by a revolutionary range of submersibles, dive and scientific research equipment to cover the full range of ocean depths. All of this will be backed up by technical, human performance and operational training and qualification programmes through the DEEP Institute to enable scientists to live and work at depth, as well as a unique underwater R&D test and operations facility, the DEEP Campus.

“DEEP’s mission is not only to enable access to our oceans through invention of equipment, but also developing human performance to allow a step change for our entire species to sustainably explore, live, work, and thrive underwater,” commented Mike Taylor, strategic partnerships lead.

At the beginning of the project, the Sentinel will allow scientists to live underwater at depths of up to 200 metres for up to 28 days at a time. This will give extended access to most of the world’s continental shelves, including the epipelagic, or ‘sunlight’ zone. The lower limit of the epipelagic zone is the deepest point at which sunlight penetrates into the ocean and it’s estimated that 90% of marine life is found in this zone.

Being able to comprehensively explore the full extent of this part of the ocean rather than just performing incursions from the surface, will represent a step-change in the way scientists can observe, monitor, and understand the oceans.

Kirk Krack, human diver performance lead at DEEP told Oceanographic: “We’re excited for the world to see the next generation of diving and exploration possibilities by helping unlock access to our most critical ocean zones. Scientists need to understand our marine ecosystems better and solve the big problems ahead of us. There has never been a more crucial time in our history for this capability to come along.”

“Out of sight and out of mind – not having a better understanding of the oceans is no longer an option,” said Sean Wolpert, president, Americas of DEEP. “DEEP is coming out of stealth mode now as we need to take others on this journey. We are already talking to potential international partners, and others with a long-term view of the needs of the planet, who recognise that the up-side for humanity in preserving and husbanding the oceans is now too great to ignore.

“Looking at the themes around the emerging new ocean/blue economy we hear of opportunity and solutions in pharmaceutical research, in carbon capture, in innovative medicines. This is about how we can cooperate and can begin to work with the oceans for generations to come. DEEP offer to partners a way to do this hitherto impossible,” explained Wolpert.

Following two years of intensive and pioneering research into innovative manufacturing processes and materials science, DEEP is at the advanced stage of technical design and has commenced production. The DEEP system now offers a radically more effective way to live and operate underwater than has existed before. Previously, underwater facilities have been temporary and fixed-location. DEEP’s habitat is modular, scalable, autonomous, recoverable, re-configurable and re-deployable.

“We created DEEP to fundamentally change human ability to operate underwater, so we can understand and protect our Ocean planet. We’re hoping to provide significant breakthroughs fast, but really this is an ultra-long-term mission: our true stakeholders won’t be born for a generation or two,” told Steve Etherton Oceanographic. By 2035, DEEP seeks to achieve ten multi-span developments globally, while they envision the first human to be born subsea by 2050.

The UK’s South West and Wales were selected as DEEP’s initial base because of the unique cluster of relevant marine engineering, diving, hyperbaric and submersible expertise, and links with the wider UK commercial and technical diving industry. Together these provide the foundation for a new industrial and scientific ecosystem.

Alongside the underwater habitat, DEEP has developed the DEEP Institute to develop well-rounded divers through modular-based programmes that will focus on a variety of topics such as freediving, technical diving, submersibles, ocean economy awareness, ocean data, carbon investing, science and data collection, and more.

Additionally, investment in the DEEP Campus will transform the old National Dive & Activity Centre into a world-leading 600 metre long, 100 metre wide and 80 metre deep controlled water facility for training, testing and research. DEEP Campus will become a core part of the regional ecosystem, hosting essential development exercises for DEEP as well as regional, national and international partners.

I am delighted that we can finally unveil DEEP to the world. Our products will open up access to the oceans and in this next phase we will be working with some truly remarkable people pioneers, explorers and researchers who will lead the way in understanding and safeguarding our marine ecosystems,” said Beth Allen, DEEP’s associate COO. 

To find out more about DEEP, click here



Written by Oceanographic Staff
Photographs by DEEP - Artists Impressions

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