Between the Aquarius Seed settlement and the full scale marine colony would be a series of changes and expansions marking the transition from a village on a small sheltered water structure to a small city on the open-sea. The key structural changes would be the shift from static float platforms that are relatively low in the water to pneumatically stabilized platforms that may be larger in unit module size and high out of the water, the shift from an inwardly focused radial compound or Chinese Mansion configuration to an outwardly focused form centered on a tall central macrostructure, and the switch from the early light forms of construction used at the start to the heavy forms of masonry construction its larger and taller structures demand. But the critical factor controlling how and how fast the Aquarius Seed can evolve is transportation whose choice of technology will largely be a function of population scale.
As noted in earlier articles, transportation is the critical logistical factor that has precluded marine colonization to date. Our civilization suffers from severe gaps in transportation capability which the contemporary developers of vehicles have generally ignored since they could not define profitable markets to associate with them. No community can be totally self-sufficient given contemporary technology and so where a community can be built and thrive is determined by the nature of energy and transportation infrastructure linking it to the rest of the world. These things determine the physical character of our civilization more than anything else. The physical form of our civilization today has been determined more by fossil energy and how we communicate that energy than any other factor.
Initial Seed settlements will likely rely on either simple walkway access to the shore or a Solar Ferry; a simple electric powered pontoon platform ferry with a solar panel canopy that can be reconfigured for passenger and industrial uses. Small personal boats would further supplement this. But immediately past this very rudimentary level of transportation the cost of transit systems skyrockets. The Solar Ferry would be readily scalable in size but not in the sea conditions it can tolerate and the cost of water-spanning transportation technology (ie. boats, ships, or aircraft) seems to grow exponentially with sea conditions and distance, largely because options are so few and not incrementally scaled in capability. It is therefore critically necessary for the fledgling marine settlement, and TMP facilities in general, to engage in the development of new vehicles suited to the use of the forms of renewable energy the ultimate marine colony will employ and which can fill capability gaps left by off-the-shelf vehicles. In later articles we will discuss a number of proposed vehicles that may be pursued by the inhabitants of the Seed settlements and the businesses they create.
The most challenging point in overall development for the fledgling marine settlement would be the point where the community reaches the 'convenience limit' of commuter passenger travel by conventional marine transportation and faces a dilemma in the implementation of air transit alternatives. No matter how future marine vessel technology evolves, odds are that in the near future the highest cruising speed for most ferry sized vehicles will be in the area of 50mph. This puts the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone boundary -the actual limit of territorial waters beyond which a marine settlement must go to be politically autonomous- at a 4-6 hour trip one-way, varying with weather. The general limit in convenient commute time is going to be one third this or less -bearing in mind that the whole trip a person makes must also include a certain amount of time traveling on land. This is the point beyond which the settlement must seek a very high degree of self-sufficiency -not in a survivalist or subsistence sense but rather in terms of work venues and basic community services such as shopping, education, health care, and emergency response. Community scale must quickly become quite large -almost as large as the complete colony. But this still puts the community well within territorial waters where residents must still pay taxes for services on the shore they can no longer use while investing additionally in local facilities. Thus the incentive to seek the open sea becomes a simple economic one.
The only solution to extend distance from shore without a corresponding exponential expansion in the size of the settlement is air transit whose higher speeds extends the convenience limit of transit to shore. But we face many complications with this. Helicopters are simply not a very cost-effective technology and never have been. Commuter fixed wing aircraft are much superior in cost-effectiveness but at sea will demand a large airstrip whose extreme cost may only be defrayed by turning it into a solar power plant and marine container terminal -and mind you, this is still only a fraction the size needed for airliners. There is no current form of 'seaplane' large enough to routinely land and take off on the open sea. Commuter aircraft also cannot carry as many people and goods as ferries and have a much poorer cost-per-passenger-per-hour in operation. So they can't replace ferries, only operate in addition to them. But perhaps the biggest problem with them is that the 200 miles of the EEZ is roughly their effective limit in range. That was an intentional factor in the original choice of the span of the EEZ. It was meant to preclude to the development of things like foreign-owned off-shore airports. At its maximum scale an Aquarian marine colony may never be able to afford -as a function of economy of scale relative to population- any larger class of aircraft such as the conventional airliners with intercontinental range. So even with the aid of air transit, the severe limitations of aircraft technology greatly complicate the pattern of growth for a marine settlement. Current aircraft technology simply is not as efficient or effective as it's so often assumed be.
Clearly, the marine settlement is forced to develop its own solutions to these dilemmas as a part of its intermediate development and they may come in the form of new vehicles and transit systems, adaptations to the lifestyle of the settlement, or the simple pursuit of ever-larger and more self-sufficient communities. However, there is no question that the marine colony must offer a superior standard of living in order to be a compelling social attractor and sustain its own growth. Today we equate transit convenience with standard of living. We have grown used to the notion of any part of the globe being an overnight trip away at worst -even if the majority of our goods actually never travel faster than 20-60mph. So this will remain a most challenging issue for marine settlement for some time.
- Life In Aquarius
- Seed Settlement Design Concepts
- Aquarian Colony Design Concepts
- Aquarian Mariculture and Farming
- Aquarian Transportation
- Aquarius Supporting Technologies