Is the Ocean the Real Final Frontier?

Captain Kirk and Jacques Cousteau: The ultimate battle.

(Page 2 of 2)

If you’re just looking for wide open spaces, the vastness of space may ultimately prove your final frontier, but Söhnlein has a very human take on the question: “For myself,” he says, “I’d probably go with the oceans. Humanity has millennia to explore the cosmos. But I have only decades or—depending on who you believe—centuries. And there’s plenty to discover down there to fill my lifetime.”

This story originally appeared at on September 4 as part of a series of articles in response to the question, “Is exploration dead?” Read more about modern-day exploration of the sea, space, land, and more unexpected areas.

This article arises from Future Tense, a collaboration among Arizona State University, the New America Foundation, and Slate. Future Tense explores the ways emerging technologies affect society, policy, and culture. To read more, visit the Future Tense blog and the Future Tense home page. You can also follow us on Twitter.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Did you even watch seaQuest DSV? No, of course you didn't. Nobody did, because the ocean is boring.

  • ||

    I watched it! *whispers* Once.

  • ||

    Um, I grew up watching that show?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Was that the one with Roy?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I think he got replaced by someone else after he realized he was in it.

  • Stephdumas||

    I didn't watch SeaQuest but I saw a old tv series similar about deep oceans and also threats coming from some undersea civilisations named Stingray produced by the late producer Gerry Anderson well known for Fireball XL5, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, UFO and Space 1999.

  • CE||

    No, but I watched Sealab 2020, which was cool, and now only 7 years away from fruition.

  • ||

    Not in the ocean! Inside the ocean! In the heaviest, deepest, most brutal part - THE MARIANAS TRENNNNNNNNNNNNCH.

  • Paul.||

    here’s no doubt that the general public considers space the sexier realm. The occasional James Cameron joint aside, there’s much more cultural celebration of space travel, exploration, and colonization than there is of equivalent underwater adventures

    There's always something sexy about going somewhere else. Exploring the sea is a bit like figuring out what's at the bottom of your dark closet. It's a space that's in your house, you just don't go there because it's a pain in the ass. Which brings me to my second point:

    People sometimes don't realize that going into space is, in some respects, easier than it is to go to the bottom of the ocean. Or maybe I could say, to BE IN space in easier. Going there is tough, sure, but once you're there, you can float around in a tin-foil capsule with a leaky space suit and you're fine.

    Deep oceans? Not so much. The difference between 14lb per sqin and zero isn't that much. But the difference between 14lb per sq in and... a zillion lbs per sq in is huge. The stuff required to survive at the ocean bottom is very difficult to build, survive and move around in.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Pressure is a bitch.

  • CE||

    On the flip side, you don't burn up on reentry from underwater, and there's abundant food and water.

  • Jake W||

    No, something even worse happens coming up too fast.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Not in a pressurized vessel, so far as I am aware.

  • Mickey Rat||

    "Water, water, every where,
    And all the boards did shrink;
    Water, water, every where,
    Nor any drop to drink."

  • CE||

    Seasteading would be much easier than colonizing space, but the downside is you are still within reach of the world's government navies. In space, it costs a lot more to go after you once you declare your independence.

  • Jake W||

    Eventually that may be the case, I think the first colonies in space will be heavily indoctrinated/monitored to prevent any mishaps due to little things like murder and sabotage.

  • gimmeasammich||

    Well the 'verse is a big place, so you can always run from the Alliance. As long as I have a bona fide companion I'll be OK. If you got a job to do, I can do it, don't much care what it is.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    The ocean can be subdivided with three dimensional (four dimensional?) property boundaries and title restrictions, just like we do with land. It should be easier than ever now with technologies like GPS. Someone can own an area of the water surface and volume of water to a certain depth below it for fishing, while somebody else could own the floor directly below that for mineral extraction.

  • Jake W||

    The problem today being that corporate interests would snap up anything worth more than sand because they have the wealth and equipment (to detect resources) to do so.

  • bassjoe||

    Um... that's sort of a terrible idea.

  • Rasilio||

    The problem is that deep sea exploration is relatively easy, deep sea exploitation is hard as hell, MUCH harder than exploiting the earth - moon system or mining asteroids.

    The technological hurdles in building an iron mine that operates 5 miles below the surface dwarf the technological hurdles that would need to be overcome to place a space habitat at the Earth-Moon L5 point then go capture a nickle iron asteroid and tow it there. The cost for the space mine would be cheaper as well.

  • bassjoe||

    Really? We already drill for oil miles beneath the surface. I admit, that's not the same as an iron mine but the cost for the rockets, mining equipment, life support equipment, etc., to get to the moon will be astronomical.... no pun intended.

  • Rasilio||

    Yes, really.

    Getting into space is more expensive than going down to the bottom of the ocean but we're not just talking about getting there, we're talking about robotic systems and manned habitats operating there continuously for years at a time and that is something that is MUCH simpler to do in a vaccuum than it is to do in a highly corrosive high pressure water environment

  • Rasilio||

    Also even with the deep water oil drills, the only thing going down to the bottom of the ocean is the drill tip, the drilling platform hangs around on the surface of the ocean

  • ThatSkepticGuy||

    "In a celebrity death match between Captain Kirk and Jacques Cousteau, Kirk is going to kick butt every time."

    One saved the Humpbacks, the other blew up dolphins with dynamite for shits and giggles.

    Close one.

  • Web Design Quote||

    Thanks for informative share!

  • stop_telling_lies||

    . . .That federal money is taxpayer money which has to be accounted for, and it is a finite pool that you have to draw from against competing needs, . . .

    Accounted for? Finite pool? When did that start?

  • HenryC||

    Space is the final frontier, underwater may be the next frontier however.

  • Jackand Ace||

    Well, let's just hope we are not screwing up that "final frontier."

  • Dan||

    Space is more exciting to most people because it holds the theoretical potential for expansion. There is no possible way people could ever live in the deep sea, so most people see no value in it.

  • wwhorton||

    Agreed. Spend as much money, do as much research and development as you want, you will never find a place under the ocean where the water pressure suddenly decreases and you have habitable space where you could form a sustainable colony. With space travel, there's always the possibility that, somewhere, there's an Earth-like planet we could live on with minimal alteration. And even if there isn't, the difficulty in terraforming a planet that's at least reasonably suitable (Mars comes to mind, and I believe there's a moon of Saturn that's supposedly pretty close to liveable) for human colonization is much, much less than doing the same on Earth in the deep sea.

  • Web Design Quote||

    Finally, I can find out the information that I am looking for. Thanks!


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