A new way of living underwater - Habitat Waterford
Contributed by Tim Hochgrebe
I stumbled over a recent article in
our local newspaper the 'Byron Shire News' about a guy in the area
trying to create a new form of 'Underwater Living' with the help of a
local company producing Dome Shells.
At first it seems like a very 'hippy' idea and really fits into our
part of the world, as does the Dome Shell factory. However, on further
investigation, the instigator, Shaun Waterford, seemed more down to
earth than expected and I decided to take a look for myself.
I met Shaun at the Billinudgel Dome Shell factory and he gave me a
detailed rundown of the project and showed me the prototype AquaDome
which is nearing the end of it construction. At 3 metres internal
diametre it will be a small space to live in, but it will proof the
concept from which bigger domes will be built.
Of course the concept of living underwater is not new and people
have spent already over two months in other underwater 'habitats', but
Shaun is setting out to break the world record for the longest
uninterrupted stay beneath water in his so called 'Habitat Waterford'.
"The record now stands at 69 days, but our team intends to go down
for three months" Shaun said.
The 'underwater caravan' will have many potential uses, such as an
aquaculture station, ocean monitoring station, a tourist location or a
Shaun's aim is to set up a unique construction company that will
supply the world-wide market with concrete underwater habitats to be
used in artificial lakes and reef systems and tourism centres.
"There are very few new
spectacular engineering projects these days and this is one of the very
few", Shaun said. The habitat is the result of 5 years research and
development by Shaun Waterford including two years with a NASA think
tank at Cape Canaveral.
What began as an intellectual pursuit now seems very close to become
a reality. Of course a project like this needs support, sponsorship and
the permission by a local council to deploy the prototype. Despite a
number of offers from overseas including the USA and Tonga, Shaun would
prefer to keep the project in Australia for the prototype testing and
the world record attempt.
The ingenious use of concrete as the main building material and the
shape of the domes makes the Habitat Waterford a very suitable and
affordable option for 'underwater living' and the use of submersible
barges for transportation of the domes to their proposed location is an
easy and cheap method as well.
key component of the project is the possibility to create artificial
reef systems using the domes as concrete artificial reef units. The use
of this material for creating artificial reefs with an international
track record in over 59 countries, demonstrates that theses units can
protect as well as rehabilitate reefs.
"The key to their success is that they mimic natural reefs in form
and function, quickly increasing fish numbers and diversity, as well as
being rapidly colonised by corals, algae and sponges." Shaun said.
Shaun also has a vision to involve local artists in his creation by
inviting them to contribute to an underwater sculpture park that would
complement everything taking place in the underwater kingdom.
"All this would be at no cost to the local community, and sponsored
by the corporate sector." Shaun said.
"It would bring to the area international publicity, tourism
promotion and an area for the community to enjoy."
I am following his project with keen interest and we will report on
new developments as they become available.