Home Is the Ocean


"Home is the Ocean" is the Oceanus Company slogan. It is a simple slogan with a simple concept behind it—oceanic settlement. As a libertarian I look to oceanic settlement as the best means of achieving three important goals: a) I want to be where I can live and practice libertarian principles with reasonable safety from man and nature while earning my living in the company of people with similar principles. b) I want to do this while enjoying the best that science and technology have to offer. c) I want to begin this new life style as soon as possible, preferably tomorrow morning. As an inventor I offer my plans and concepts to libertarians as a practical method of creating ocean-based enclaves of freedom or, if you will, libertarian sovereignties.

I believe that oceanic settlers will be the scientific and technological leaders of the world a few years hence. The environment demands excellence. Oceanic settlers will lead in robotics for the simple reason that exploitation of oceanic resources is a perfect area for the development and utilization of robots. Ocean-based freeports are ideal for laissez-faire manufacturing and trading societies because the ocean is the road to every port in the world and the primary means of shipping goods between nations. However, the advantages of strategic placement will in no way guarantee the success of oceanic communities. It will also take proper tools and disciplined imagination.


Before we get too far into oceanic settlement, I think it would be appropriate briefly to review the alternatives for creating a laissez-faire society.

To my way of thinking, libertarians form a class similar to the Jews prior to the creation of Israel in 1948. We are few in number, scattered, relatively disorganized, share a common "religion," and we are a landless people. To survive we must form efficient, cooperative organizations for the purpose of creating one or more (preferably many) libertarian societies.


In the June 1971 issue of REASON, Robert Poole listed three possible paths toward the construction of a free society[1]:

1) violent overthrow of the government followed by the construction from scratch of a free society,

2) nonviolent noncooperation and withdrawal of support, leading to a collapse of the government, followed by construction from scratch of a free society, and

3) evolutionary change from our present government to a progressively more limited government, culminating in full laissez-faire.

I would like to add two other alternatives:

4) try to convince an existing sovereignty to grant land for a libertarian system[2], and

5) start from scratch and build a libertarian society in a territory where no system, relatively speaking, now exists.

As Mr. Poole stated in his article:

The first path is clearly unacceptable by any sort of criterion of justice toward innocent bystanders (who typically bear the brunt of revolutionary violence). Furthermore, the chances of libertarians being listened to in the chaos following revolution are slim. The second alternative is nearly as bad as the first, in terms of both harming innocent people and providing little likelihood of libertarian ideas holding sway "after."

From my point of view method number 3 has such a small chance of succeeding that I would not want to plan my life around it, even though I have bet some money on it ($12 to the Libertarian Party). With one out of every six American wage-earners now on some sort of government payroll, socialism and the welfare state as firmly entrenched ideals, and a governmental fiscal policy that fuels inflation, I think there will be an economic collapse or worse long before any sort of evolutionary libertarian efforts would have any noticeable effect.

Method 4 worked for Israel in a manner of speaking. However, I can't imagine the United States, Russia, China, Japan, or any other world power forcing an existing nation or nations to move over and let some libertarians have some room. Likewise, I don't think the odds are very great in favor of getting some sovereignty to voluntarily grant some of its land for a laissez-faire system [Cf. the interview with Mike Oliver in this issue —Ed.].

If we want to be able to begin now, depending on our own efforts and not hoping or waiting for somebody else to sell or give us the space we require, then we are left with method 5. This means, in effect, settle the ocean. While we are forced by circumstances to accept a new and hostile environment, this can prove to be a blessing if we have the right attitude.


There are several ways to approach oceanic settlement. One is to build massive floating or piling-supported cities on the surface. Another is to build bubble cities on the ocean floor. A third approach (Oceanus' approach) is to build individual homes, on the surface or submerged, that can be linked together by cooperative individuals to form oceanic communities, either highly mobile or semi-stationary.


The best description of a massive floating city concept was given in THE SAN MATEO TIMES for 25 March 1972[3]:

The world's first floating city, technologically possible and ecologically healthy, may be rising from the Pacific if a leading ocean authority can get his proposal moving.

Dr. John P. Craven, Dean of Marine Programs at the University of Hawaii and Hawaii's first State Marine Affairs Coordinator, is hoping to build such a city three miles off the famed Diamond Head landmark.

Craven's circular floating city would be built upon platforms in the ocean buoyed by modules, with a module consisting of three underwater flotation cylinders. Huge columns would extend deep into the water, the site of underwater industrial and manufacturing activity, but would not be attached to the ocean floor. Floating cities of this type require at least a 300-foot water depth. Families would live in slices in cylindrical towers above the platform.


In my opinion a floating city such as Craven envisions would be a highly successful and beautiful suburban development of an existing coastal city, which is exactly what he proposes. However, I see several reasons why a floating city such as this would not be right for a fledgling oceanic community.

1) A floating "city," a la Craven, would work as a suburban development because the developers would have records of industrial and population growth on which to base reliable predictions for future requirements. A libertarian community in the middle of the ocean would have no record at all.

2) The smallest and most adaptable structural units possible should be utilized for homes and industry in a fledgling ocean based community. In this manner the physical facilities of a large or small community could be had at the lowest cost and risk during the hectic years of initial development.

3) Rather than designing slices in cylindrical towers for family residences I think we would do better to design residences to exalt the individual and individuality. Instead of trying to achieve higher and higher population densities we should be trying to attain lower densities with as much space and natural beauty around a home as possible.


The cost of a bubble city on the ocean floor would be even greater than that of a monolithic floating city. A city or dwelling located on the bottom must be either tremendously strong to withstand the pressures at depth or else the inside of the structure must be pressurized, which cuts off free and easy access to the surface world. This is no way to raise a family. (I assume that any libertarian community would be located beyond the continental shelf and therefore in relatively deep water, say 1000 to 1500 feet.)


It is important to be able to invert one's physical viewpoint when considering ocean living. On land we live on the surface along with the plants and animals on which we ultimately depend for our survival. When we move to the ocean we must live beneath the surface in order to remain in the zone of maximum biological activity. On the ocean's surface we view either monotonous unbroken water or person-made structures while just a few feet down we encounter a world of living creatures, varied colors, sunlight and water in ever changing patterns and movement. To my mind, a land dweller who thinks of oceanic living only in terms of land living (surface living) is completely analogous to an ocean dweller, say a porpoise, thinking that the only place to live on land is underground.


While there are disadvantages to oceanic living, I don't see them as being worse than some of the disadvantages found on land. With our increased knowledge and tools there certainly aren't any disadvantages comparable to those faced by the families who settled the New World and, later, the American West. There are, however, many advantages to be found in oceanic settlement. Kiyonori Kikutake, a Japanese architect working with Dr. Craven on the Hawaiian floating city concept, expressed one of the primary advantages when he said that the floating state is a healthy state from which to approach the future. It is a soft state, a metabolic state, always changing, capable of responding quickly to the shifting emotional, psychological, and esthetic demands of the human condition.[4]

Some of the more obvious advantages are:

• More than 70% of the earth's surface is water, which we can travel on or through with relative ease.

• Aquaculture, or marine farming, is already more productive than land farming in many cases. For example, the average yearly production of cattle land is 400 pounds per acre while 3000 pounds per acre per year of prawns have been raised.[5]

• Moving heavy objects is not the problem that it is on land. Everything weighs less in water.

• Great pressures are readily available for many industrial uses.

• There are no dangers from tsunamis, forest fires, floods, earthquakes, or landslides.

• Building of roads is not necessary.

• Wave energy is available for conversion to hydraulic or electrical energy.[6]


I see seven basic requirements for a viable ocean community.

In order of importance they are:

1) Shelter for normal and storm conditions;

2) Food;

3) Power for the homes and personal use of the inhabitants; and for

4) Tools, machinery and/or facilities to produce products for

5) Trade;

6) Transportation to move people and products in trade;

7) Security measures to protect the people and all of the above from other men.

After these initial requirements have been satisfied the community will require educational and recreational facilities.


As a potential oceanic settler I am vitally concerned with all of the above. So far I have been able to put together five concepts which would contribute to the solution of these problems. They are:

• The "Oceanus Hull," which can provide a stable ocean platform for homes and businesses (Requirements 1 and 4) as well as fulfill requirements for transportation; (Requirement 6)

• The "ReefHome," which also provides facilities for homes and businesses;

• The "SeaRoom," a small underwater observatory, which falls more into the educational and recreational categories;

• The "SeaWalk," which could best be described as a giant floating waterbed and is also in the recreational field;

• The "ScuBoat," a scuba divers' transportation system which, in an ocean community, would have application in the areas of food production (Requirement 2), tools and products for trade (Requirements 4 and 5), transportation (Requirement 6), as well as recreation and education.


In the area of food production the oceanic community will utilize hydroponics as never before. Every home would eventually have its own hydroponic room where fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables would be produced. Perhaps a relatively large "Oceanus Hull" would serve as a suitable feed lot for raising beef fed on processed seaweed or phytoplankton. Artificial reefs, which can be suspended beneath the "ReefHomes" will certainly enhance the supply of fish and plant life.[7] One fish that is a perfect candidate for an ocean based fish farming operation is the dolphin-fish (or mahi mahi). Consider these characteristics[8]:

1) Extremely rapid growth rate: (a) marketable size in 3-4 months, (b) growth rate of 3-5 pounds per month

2) Short time until sexually mature; spawns less than 6 months after hatching

3) Spawns all year long

4) Excellent food fish (wholesale prices, which I personally checked by calling Florida and Hawaii fish markets, vary from 55 cents to $1.10 per pound)

5) Can be farmed on a world-wide basis because it is found naturally in all warm seas (75 degrees F)


There will be so many opportunities to solve exciting new problems in the oceanic environment that I'm surprised we don't have designers, inventors, engineers, and other innovators standing on the beach with their suitcases.

For example, in the areas of generating power from wave action and developing deep-water breakwaters, we could solve the problems of providing needed power and shelter from waves as well as create a product for export. Consider the possibility of an oceanic generator/breakwater device which would produce electricity to electrolyze seawater, producing hydrogen and chlorine gases. Both gases have ready markets but with the development of a hydrogen/air engine the market for hydrogen would be astronomical. It is a fuel which could easily displace petroleum products and, most important, is nonpolluting. Aside from my own ideas for an oceanic power generator/breakwater I know of at least one large corporation which is developing a good, economical, deep-water breakwater which could also be utilized to generate power.


The first concept I offer for your consideration is the "Oceanus Hull." The illustrations show the primary features, advantages, and potential applications of this versatile design. The "Oceanus Hull" can provide adaptable and economical platforms for homes and businesses. With it we will be able to travel the world ocean, anchor by any coastal city, or take part in creating an ocean-based libertarian community.

Don Varner


Dr. T.G. Lang of the U.S. Naval Undersea Research and Development Center in San Diego, California, authored an ASME paper[9] on a similar hull design (much optimized and streamlined) which he calls the S3 or semisubmerged ship. I might add that a semisubmerged ship of roughly the same configuration (1200 metric tons), named Duplus, was built by Netherlands Offshore Company in 1969 as a dredging/drilling rig for use in the North Sea.[10]


My second design for an oceanic home is called the "ReefHome" because of the suspended artificial reef beneath the structure. This structure could also be used as a school, manufacturing facility, store, town hall, or whatever an individual or community would require. I call it "ReefHome" to emphasize its suitability as a place to live 24 hours a day, 365 days a year while rearing children and carrying out "normal" human activities.

Construction materials for the "ReefHome" can be steel, fiberglass, or concrete. Steel would provide the fastest method of construction initially while fiberglass would be lighter. Concrete, however, would be the most economical and long-lasting. Since the "ReefHome" in its simplest form is just a large diameter section of pipe with a horizontal floor (deck), it would be easy to produce by existing concrete construction methods.[11]

A 20-foot diameter by 100-foot long cylindrical "ReefHome" would provide approximately 2100 square feet of living area. This does not include the lower level (actually one-half of the cylinder) or the surface decks. Living in a "ReefHome" would provide all the advantages of subsurface living while allowing free access to the surface world of sunlight, blue sky, conventional gardening, and open-air play. The "ReefHome" with its many acrylic view windows and closeness to the surface and sunlight would provide a feeling of openness, freedom, and communion with nature's underwater world. The artificial reef would enable various forms of sea life to grow in what might otherwise be a barren environment. In fact the reef could be each oceanic settler's "farm," providing plant and animal life for company and consumption even while giving visual stimulation in the underwater home.

Don Varner


The "SeaRoom" is a maximum visibility room which is to be used in shallow water (less than 50 feet). It is submerged and moored by pumping the suspended container full of sand. When the "SeaRoom" is to be moved the sand is pumped out of the fiberglass container and the assembly rises to the surface where it may be towed by a small boat. The 16-foot diameter hemispherical room and access tube are nonpressurized so that no air-locks, compressors, or other expensive equipment is required. Power to the ventilation fan and two-man elevator is basically all that is required to make the "SeaRoom" operable. A clear plastic, open-bottomed cylinder is attached to the underside of the "SeaRoom" for use by scuba divers. The divers' exhalations fill the cylinder with air which forces the water from this "conversation chamber" allowing the divers a place to remove their regulators and talk.

This structure would be more for recreational use or as an oceanographic observation station as it does not provide sufficient room for sustained family living.


The "SeaWalk" (not shown)) will provide large (or small) playgrounds for the children of oceanic settlers and would even be used by the adults as fields for playing such games as "Ocean Football" or "Sea Volleyball." There is certainly a need in the oceanic community for large, low cost, open-air play areas.


"ScuBoat" is a scuba divers' transportation system which was developed primarily for the sport scuba diving market of 550,000 divers. It is a system which can be broken down into components and accessories so as to provide the diver maximum financial and functional choice in putting together a package for his particular requirements. In an oceanic community it seems logical to assume that almost all residents will be divers and therefore a divers' transportation system should be a useful tool.


Utilizing the foregoing designs, I have developed the concept of an oceanic community which I call "Tethys," after the wife of Oceanus, Greek Titan god of the sea. It is possible to build communities such as this at thousands of locations on the world ocean. It is most practical and economical to build them in relatively shallow areas where the water depth is no more than 1000 feet, such as around reefs or the submerged tops of oceanic mountains. Around a reef such a community would not damage marine ecological systems because there would be no need for dredging or filling operations. Whereas a piling supported city or community would probably be built over a reef and would kill the living coral by shading it from the sunlight, a community such as Tethys would be floating around the reef in such a manner that the settlers would be able to enjoy the natural beauty of the reef without destroying it.

Such a community would truly be a cooperative endeavor where even the physical stability of a person's home would be improved if he linked up with one or more neighbors. Each "ReefHome" or "Oceanus Hull" could link up with any number of other homes to provide close-knit (but separate and private) extremely stable neighborhoods.

Both the "Oceanus Hull" and "ReefHome" concepts can be scaled up to provide structures suitable for any human activity.

Don Varner


As land dwellers we must consider earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, landslides, forest fires, brush fires, and hurricanes when looking for a place to live. As ocean dwellers our primary concern in this regard is with high winds blowing for many hours across many miles of open water. Such conditions can produce waves such as the one sketched here. Depicted is a wave cycle with a scale storm wave 100 feet high; an "Oceanus Hull" structure 200 feet long; a "ReefHome" structure 20 feet in diameter; and a storm shelter 10 feet in diameter by 200 feet long, vertical. In different areas of the ocean, waves of this size may occur often, once every 100 years (100 year storm), or never at all. They are, however, the single most dangerous natural phenomenon that an ocean settler might expect. While properly designed storm shelters can provide safe, low cost, and relatively comfortable lodging during even the most severe storms, our other structures (both surface and near-surface) can be designed to survive such storms.[12] The offshore petroleum industry would be the best source of engineers and designers to solve these problems since they have been solving them successfully for quite a few years. With structures that "roll with the punches" we should be able to survive nature's more forceful onslaughts without too much financial or physical loss.

Don Varner

During an ocean storm the safest place to be is in the water—the deeper the better. For that reason the "ReefHome" is inherently more safe during a violent storm than an "Oceanus Hull". While the "ReefHome" does not have the mobility of an "Oceanus Hull" it is better suited to stay and take it when Mother Nature gets huffy. In fact it can very easily be designed to submerge completely during storms and in that case it would approach the condition of the storm shelter.

To increase the station-keeping characteristics of the "Oceanus Hull" and its structures, they should be streamlined as much as possible to decrease wind resistance. Dome homes on an "Oceanus Hull" can be built as inflatable or foam units which greatly increases their adaptability and lowers their cost.

Oceanic pioneers will invent many methods of protecting themselves and their property during adverse conditions, but we should remember that the best methods will only be discovered after actual settlement has taken place.

In his book, THE BOUNTIFUL SEA, Seabrook Hull states[13]:

A great exploration or forcing back of frontiers is a synthesis in time of need, and capability catalyzed into being by the insatiable curiosity, limitless imagination, drive, daring, and knowledge of a singular kind of man. This is such a time, and there are such men. [and women]

What about it, libertarians?

Will Barkley is founder of Oceanus Company in San Jose, CA. He was educated at Fresno (Calif) City College and the University of Houston. He is a certified scuba diver and belongs to the Marine Technology Society and United Inventors and Scientists of America. Currently he is on contract to FMC Corp., Ocean Engineering Group.


[1] "Leverage Points for Social Change," Robert Poole, Jr, REASON, Vol. 3, No. 3, June 1971.
[2] In "Letter to a King," pp. 19-24 of A CONSTITUTION FOR A MORAL GOVERNMENT by Jack Anderson and Perry Miles an appeal is made to a king to grant land for a laissez-faire freeport.
[3] A very interesting and much more thorough account of Dr. Craven's proposed city can be found in the 4 December 1971 issue of SATURDAY REVIEW, p.80, "Cities on the Sea" by John Lear.
[4] Ibid. p.84.
[5] OCEANS MAGAZINE, No. 1, 1972, p.43, "Aquaculture: Problems with the Promise" by Howard Pennington.
[6] A promising concept for generating useful power from ocean (surf) waves is discussed in the March 1970 issue of OCEAN INDUSTRY, p.62, "New Concept for Harnessing Ocean Waves."
[7] Artificial reefs in various locations have been improving fish yields for several years. See "Artificial Reef," p.62 of the July 1970 issue of SKIN DIVER. Also "How Offshore Platforms Help Fishing," p.64 of the April 1971 issue of OCEAN INDUSTRY.
[8] SEA FRONTIERS (magazine of the International Oceanographic Foundation), Vol. 17, No. 4, July-August 1971, pp.194-201, "Dolphin Spectacular" by Grant L. Beardsley, Jr.
[9] AMERICAN SOCIETY OF MECHANICAL ENGINEERS PAPER NO. 71-WA/UNT-1 presented at the Winter annual meeting, Washington, D.C., 28 November-2 December, 1971.
[10] OCEAN INDUSTRY, March 1969, p.28, "Duplus-A Catamaran for Severe Seas."
[11] The U.S. Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory (NCEL) at Port Hueneme, California, has conducted and is carrying on exhaustive tests of concrete for marine use. "NCEL considers concrete ideal for the ocean. It is inexpensive, corrosion resistant, reacts well to compression and can be fabricated at thicknesses which provide precise buoyancy control." Quote from UNDERSEA TECHNOLOGY, August 1971, p.13, "SEACON Structure Ready for Tests."
[12] OCEAN INDUSTRY, January 1969, p.21, gives an account of a semisubmersible offshore drilling rig, SEDCO 135F, taking 92 mph winds and waves of 58 feet with one wave of 95 feet being taken without any adverse effects!
[13] Seabrook Hull, THE BOUNTIFUL SEA (Prentice-Hall, 1964), p.6. I think this is a really good book for anyone who is even the least bit concerned with the ocean.