British firm unveils plans for underwater colony

The UK-based DEEP says it will build a permanent underwater habitat off the coast of Wales by 2027.

The Sentinel station would be built 200 m below the sea surface or the deepest point at which sunlight penetrates the ocean. It would grant scientists unprecedented and continuous access to the deep sea for up to 28 days.

Known as the "epipelagic" zone, it is where most of the marine life is estimated to be found – representing one the richest and least explored biomes on Earth. Of the species estimated to be within oceans, 91% are yet to be discovered or documented.

"This is a massive gap in our understanding, in our knowledge of this important ecosystem," Sean Wolpert, DEEP president for the Americas, said during a press conference on Monday (September 4th).

Bridging this gap could have wide-reaching implications in areas like drug research, he said, including the potential to find new compounds to fight diseases or combat antibiotic resistance.

"It's an expansive opportunity set for us to better understand how we are as a species and how we can interact with the oceans to our benefit," Wolpert said.

As the ocean technology and exploration company, DEEP's mission is to "make humans aquatic." Still, the firm's ambitions go beyond Earth, suggesting its technology could be deployed to explore waterworlds like Jupiter's moon Europa.

Bedroom and bathroom facilities. Image by DEEP

"If we were to find life in a celestial body, either within our solar system or outside, it is more likely that we will find it in that respective body's ocean than land," Wolpert said.

Steve Etherton, DEEP president for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, said the company was emerging from a "stealth" mode after more than two years of research and 70,000 hours of engineering work by its team of more than a hundred people.

"We want this to be an amazing place to stay. Part of the reason that we haven't talked about what we're doing until now is that we wanted to be confident that we could make what we were talking about," he said.

Great hall. Image by DEEP

The company said it picked the UK's southwest as its initial base because of its "unique cluster" of marine engineering, diving, hyperbaric, and submersible expertise, as well as links to the broader commercial and technical diving industry.

The precise location and cost of the project are not clear. The firm said it was in talks with potential international partners.

According to DEEP, its Sentinel system consists of configurable and customizable modules and can be built anywhere on the continental shelf. Images released by the company show spartan yet stylish living arrangements, research facilities, and common areas in one of such modules.

Mezzanine lab. Image by DEEP
Kitchen. Image by DEEP
Galley. Image by DEEP

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