Seasteading as a movement has gone through many changes and taken on many different forms over the past several decades.
The first successful attempt at ocean colonization in recent history is Sealand, an abandoned gun platform off the coast of England. Although the party that moved in and colonized the ocean platform did not consider themselves seasteads, they have had the longest-running and most successful attempt at ocean colonization so far. The Sealand gun platform was constructed during WWII to protect London from aerial bombardment by Axis forces. It is a concrete and steel structure fixed to the floor of the ocean, about 3 nautical miles off the coast of England, it requires precious little maintenance and has been lived in continuously since 1967 when the occupying family moved in to establish a pirate radio station. The benefit of this structure is that the cost was pushed off entirely onto the WWII British military, and thus the construction cost for the current occupants is zero, while the aforementioned maintenance cost is quite low. While this does seem like a good deal, there are not many abandoned anti-aircraft gun platforms lying around the oceans, and so for the sake of creating green livable areas for the rest of the world’s population, expanding on the Sealand model is not very viable.
One Deca. This coin was produced out of silver, and so would have held its value long after the dollar began to decline after the end of the Gold Standard.
After such a successful example however, it is no wonder that Seasteading properly got its start in 1968 with Operation Atlantis, when Werner Steifel built a concrete ship on the Hudson River, and sailed it to the Caribbean. By using concrete instead of steel, the production process could be simplified, and the cost of raw materials lowered. Stiefel owned a soap company, and used the profits from his business to bring a group of like-minded people together into a motel room, which he called ‘Atlantis One’. Atlantis Two was meant to be the ship that they would construct and live on together. It was a very ambitious plan, even if the naming conventions were a little grandiose. Atlantis Two and Atlantis Three (an island he later planned to incorporate) were set to have their own currency, called the Deca. Unfortunately, Atlantis Two was destroyed in a large hurricane, and after many attempts at rebuilding, including one with an oil rig, Operation Atlantis was eventually abandoned.
Later on, in 1973, a real estate investor named Micheal Oliver found some submerged reefs which he built up into artificial islands with a similar end goal. This location was to be called the Republic of Minerva. However, after only a few months of operation, the island was handed over to the Tongan government and has since sunk back into the sea due to lack of maintenance. The viability of the model of dredging up reefs into artificial islands has not only the small flaw of needing to be continuously built back up but also the obvious problem of location, there are only a handful of locations around the world where this is viable. Still, much was learned from this venture. Similarly to Operation Atlantis, Micheal Oliver attempted to fund his second try by minting coins. Many of these can still be found in mint condition today.
35 Minervan Dollars. This coin was meant to be the official currency of the Republic of Minerva and was sold in 1973 to fund a new expedition to re-establish the Republic. The Minervan Dollars were made primarily of silver like the Deccans but also had a gold relief of the Roman goddess Minerva.
So comparing Operation Atlantis with Sealand, and the Republic of Minerva, we can see that early attempts at Seasteading typically followed small-scale models that were not meant to easily scale into floating cities. However, since the founding of the Seasteading Institute in 2008, a lot has changed with people’s mentality towards ocean colonization, finding the perfect location now matters less, and the idea of building all-weather floating platforms that can be placed anywhere, has gained much popularity. That is to say, out of the three approaches, Werner Steifel’s idea was the closest to most modern seasteading ventures. Specifically, constructing a city from scratch so it can be taken or built anywhere. So if that is the case the next question is, what is the ideal design for our floating structures to take?
Ocean Builder’s famous Thailand Seastead was built on a steel spar, on top of that spar, was a lightweight fiberglass house. When many people see images of a structure coming up out of the water raised on a pole. They often think that this pole is connected to the ocean floor. But these are called ‘spars’. Spars are advanced structures that allow any ocean structure to remain mostly stable even if the roughest waves. Ocean Builder’s seastead didn’t last long enough in Thailand for much testing to take place, but today they are building more designs in Panama, and presumably, these designs will be available for purchase here soon.
But let’s focus on the designs that Arktide has been working on.
In the Summer of 2021 Ben Silone was working on the design of a floating marina in Florida, it would have been ring-shaped and contained around 5000 square feet internally. The benefit of a ring-shaped structure was meant to be twofold. Firstly, it would be large enough to be stable on waves due to size alone. Secondly, it would create a calm zone on the interior of the ring which would allow boats to safely dock and board the structure. However, this design never got far off the drawing board.
This marina design could have two floors on the interior, and create a safe haven for boats to dock.
Earlier that year, in January, Mitchell Suchner was working on a design for a series of connected fiberglass boat hulls. They would be wide draft hulls with no engine, and two floors as well as rooftop access, this would have given internal space of around 950 sqft. per hull, and created a grid pattern stretching across miles of ocean with roads in between each building.
By summer, Mitchell was working on a new design (his version 2) which he shared with Arktide in October. This new design was meant to have greater wave stability and used some of the structure’s necessary water tanks as part of the ballast.
Mitchell Suchner’s drawing of his second Seastead concept. He has received a Master’s Degree in Fine Art and many people are jealous of his drawing abilities. He does not give autographs.
This design was later refined into version 3. The version 3 design was a tall skinny cylinder with a rooftop access door. It had 4 floors and was designed to be tipped on its side and towed for easy transport. This design was simple enough that it could be produced in a process called ‘slip forming’ if made out of concrete. This prompted us here at Arktide to look into emerging and advanced forms of concrete and develop our special Seasteading Cement. Seasteading Cement is a special type of concrete with more than 3 times normal compressive strength, as well as extremely high tensile and flexural strength, and massively reduced water permeability. This would allow the design to have a lifespan measured in centuries instead of decades like most modern steel ships.
The version 3 design would allow communities to be linked by separate floating road systems, allowing golf carts and motorcycles to be used for travel within the floating cities. These roads could also link up with large square platforms. The idea behind this, was that these platforms could be used as intersections for traffic, but also that larger structures with square edges would be able to easily link together with the existing floating city, allowing the city to be expanded with more buildings, and larger buildings later down the road.
But the amount of materials being used to create these structures was very high for the amount of livable space. So next, we went to Version 4, which brought with it a few changes. Version 4 brought back the ability for a seastead to connect directly to other seasteads, and build roads on top of the structure itself to save on materials. It was also made more squat and wider. This reduced the amount of materials needed per square foot of livable space and further cut down on unit cost.
Connection mechanisms on either side of the Version 4 would allow them to attach to each other. The wider cylinder design allowed more solar panels to be mounted on the top which could serve as a cover for the roadway below, allowing each home to produce its electricity and sell it on a city-wide grid. Each home would also come with enough parking space for a golf cart and direct road access by design.
Lastly, version 4 also added to it a series of heave plates. These plates were intended to induce drag when a wave came along and pulled the seastead up, or dropped it down. In heavy waves, this induced drag would help to keep the seastead more stationary, and not shake around as much as in a storm. Part of the benefit of this structure was that it could also serve as a platform to grow coral reefs, kelp, or shellfish. All kinds of aquatic life could thrive on this artificial shelf even in an open ocean several miles deep.
Although the long pole attaching the heave plates to the living chamber above may look similar to a spar, they serve very different functions. These columns are solid and provide no buoyancy, they are also designed more for tensile strength than compressive strength. A spar is designed to be buoyant enough to lift the living chamber entirely out of the water.
In addition to the first heave plate design shown above, many other heave plate designs were considered, as well as different ways of securing those heave plates.
Since January of 2022 however, Arktide has ramped up our activities by running wave simulations on all potential designs. These wave simulations allow us to simulate rough ocean conditions on different possible shapes for a seastead so we can see which designs are the most stable in difficult weather. This brings us to the broad categories of Version 5 and Version 6. This is more like a related group of seastead designs, and we will cover them more in our blog post next week. To give our readers a broad understanding of the state that Arktide is currently in, we are looking to expand with a new branch in Southeast Asia in the next few months, and are currently searching for suitable build locations in that area. Expect that within 2 months we will have reached our final design and within 6 months we will begin construction of our first prototype.
Next week I will talk more about what that final design is as we explain our reasoning behind Version 5 and Version 6 of Arktide’s first seastead.
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