Seastead

Note: This has become a real, funded, active project, embodied in an organization called the Seasteading Institute, of which I am Executive Director. I'm leaving the page below in place as a historical indication of how far we've come.


I am interested in helping to create a new libertarian country. Since almost all land is controlled by governments, which tend to be very reluctant to give up sovereignty, people often look to the ocean as a new frontier. The huge, expensive ideas involving seacreate and OTEC generators that I'd seen are infeasible, and so I had dismissed this possibility until I came upon Wayne Gramlich's original Seastead essay. His incremental, DIY approach stood in stark contrast to other methods. Unfortunately, the ferocity of ocean waves caused him to revise his approach to a somewhat more expensive one involving platforms, as described in the Seastead Version 2 piece (far from complete). It is still more realistic than any other proposals I've seen.

Coincidentally, Wayne lives a few miles away, so we met and have agreed to collaborate on the second essay and the actual building. Since I have a pool, we plan to start by testing engineering ideas there, and perhaps building Poolstead. This page will feature updates on our progress, as well as pictures and movies to show that we are doing actual work, as opposed to some other projects you've probably seen. I'm not yet sure if its currently possible to colonize the ocean safely and economically, but its an interesting problem that will be enjoyable to attack.

Progress:

10/01/02 After a break for the summer, Wayne, Andy and I have returned to work. Andy has been doing engineering design work on the Sea Stead Lite FF, which has a 1 acre top deck and can support ~100 people. Wayne and I have gone over the paper to determine what needs to get done and which of us will do it. We are going to start meeting regularly again, and the paper should greatly improve in the coming months. Also, Patri will be putting a server online soon for various projects, which will host a seasteading domain name that we registered and have not been using.

5/02: We have a new project member, Andy Houser, who seems to know a lot more about marine engineering than Wayne & I. Due to this, the design is undergoing some significant changes. The version 2 paper is also making progress, and a fairly current copy can be found here. We need to make more progress on the paper and new design before we return to work on prototypes.

3/27/02: We added some steel wire for tension and put a piece of plywood on top to distribute weight evenly. Patri then attempted to sit on poolstead, with comical results that miraculously did not involve him getting wet. There are two problems. The first and less serious is that the weight capacity was insufficient, even though we theoretically have 92L of flotation and were only supporting 70Kg. This is probably due to water pressure, which causes the airspace in the floats to shrink as the floats descend. Since we don't have a pneumatic system yet, we have no way to overcome this in open floats, but of course the whole point of open floats is to be connected to the pneumatic system, so this should be less of a problem when we have one and can pressurize the floats.

The second problem is that the structure was very unstable. After brainstorming for awhile on how to increase stability, Wayne made an excellent point. We wanted to have me sit on the structure for PR, but being able to do so is a very different and much harder engineering problem than we actually need to solve. The platform weights about a third what I do, so it is being faced with a moving weight 3 times the weight of the fixed structure. On a real seastead, instead of a ratio of 1:3, the ratio will be more like 100:1 - the weight of the structure will be far greater than the people and things being moved around on top. This should make it much easier to stabilize. So we are going to scrap the idea of me sitting on top for now, although we might try using a small animal later. We are going to stick with the more realistic problems of stabilizing, raising, and lowering the structure itself. Wayne is going to buy the air compressor and manual valves so that we can start manual experiments, Patri is going to work on research and improving the paper draft.

3/20/02: Wayne & I have almost finished the structure of Poolstead. Check out the page for pictures. We still need some compression members (rope or steel wire), as the PVC has a tendency to pop out when I sit on top.

3/18/02: Wayne and I have started working on the Poolstead prototype. We tried the aquarium pumps and valves today, but they were too puny. We started putting together the superstructure out of 3/4" PVC. As Wayne jokingly put it, "Its not much, but we've already done more construction work than New Utopia" :). We also have some new books, Ken Neumeyer's Sailing the Farm and Annie Hill's Voyaging On A Small Income. Wayne's been working on the Seastead 2 draft, but its not available publicly yet.

3/13/02: Wayne and I did some shopping, buying PVC tubing and connectors for Poolstead, plus some aquarium pumps, valves, and tubing.

12/25/01: I've written up some drafts (based on emails between Wayne & I) on various Seastead v.2 topics, which should eventually become sections in the paper.

12/24/01: Katy and I did some work on an Isaac's wave pump prototype. We don't have a turbine or generator, but it pumps water just fine. Since its not on the critical path, work on it has been shelved.

12/17/01: Five books arrived from Inter-Library Loan today. Conveniently there are some Naval Engineering Libraries in California on the ILL system. The books are:

Now the task is to get a decent grounding in the field and begin exploring the issues most relevant to Wayne's design. Learning a new branch of engineering - what more fun could one possibly have over the holidays? (note: I am not joking. I really do think it sounds fun. Honest!)

12/10/01: Patri built a tiny Isaac's pump, a simple device which uses wave energy to pump water (and thus could drive a turbine and generate electricity) out of a straw, some cardboard, and some duct tape. Added a buffer for smoother flow using some tubing and an empty plastic spice container. If further research determines this is the easist wave power generator, I'll build a pool-size one and then put up pictures and plans.

12/7/01: Wayne and Patri met for several hours to discuss the Seastead project. Outlined work that needed to be done: research on waves and current technology of marine engineering and offshore structures, finish version 2 essay, then start building the Poolstead.

Graphics

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