May 5, 2010
Science Scene - SeaOrbiter
Called the SeaOrbiter, the huge 51m (167ft) structure is set to be the world's first vertical ship allowing man a revolutionary view of life below the surface. Although currently only a prototype its inventor Jacques Rougerie thinks his international oceanographic station will soon be setting sail (construction is expected to start in September with launch in 2012).
The architect, whose home and office are houseboats, wants to launch half a dozen of the vessels. At the moment he says he has half the €35million (£32million) that it will cost to build the first one, and is confident of finding the rest.
When it does first set sail, there will be six crew members, six scientists and six more people on board - these may be astronauts training in extreme conditions or doctors studying submarine human behaviour.
The SeaOrbiter will drift silently across the ocean - navigation tools, communications equipment and a lookout deck will rise above the surface of the sea.
The ship's anti-collision system is based on the one used by the international space station.
Mr Rougerie is confident that the ship will be built. 'A year ago, it was 50-50,' he said. 'Now I would say it’s 90 per cent certain.'