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A super-cool research station is being built under the Caribbean Sea

The Proteus research centre will let scientists work on the ocean floor for weeks at a time

Huw Oliver
Written by
Huw Oliver

While we learn more about outer space with every new rocket launch, the earth’s expansive oceans remain relatively unexplored. They cover nearly three quarters of the world’s surface, and yet only five percent of the ocean floor has been mapped. And there are likely millions of marine species we have no idea even exist.

So say hello to Proteus – dubbed the ‘ocean’s answer to the International Space Station’ – which is set to be the world’s largest and most advanced underwater research complex.

It will be built off the coast of the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao and aims to ‘advance science to benefit the future of the planet’. It’s being officially launched today by environmentalist Fabien Cousteau – grandson of pioneering ocean explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

Once Proteus is complete, academics, governments and companies will lease state-of-the-art labs to research marine species, medicine, food sustainability and the effects of climate change on sealife.

ProteusPhotograph: fuseproject

More than four times the size of any other liveable underwater station, Proteus will also house the world’s first underwater greenhouse, allowing inhabitants to grow fresh food, and a ‘moon pool’ hatch for exploring the ocean floor.

In a breakthrough for underwater research, the centre will allow scientists to spend an entire day conducting experiments on the seafloor. This is thanks to ‘saturation chambers’ that will help change bloodstream pressure, using a mix of gases, so it is equivalent to that of the surrounding water.

Having labs at a depth of 60 feet will also allow samples to be studied in real time and avoid running the risk of specimens degrading or dying on the perilous journey back to the surface.

The initial blueprint for the complex was conceived by Yves Béhars, of design studio fuseproject, who described Proteus as ‘an exciting underwater structure that garners the same passion for ocean exploration as we have for space exploration’.

They say everyone wants to be an astronaut when they grow up. Perhaps soon that should be ‘aquanaut’.

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