Filled Under: crowd sourcing

Meet the Starship Enterprise of the Sea

A French architect’s audacious plans for a ship that will change the ocean exploration is done.


Garnering comparisons to Star Trek’s starship Enterprise, the SeaOrbiter is the brainchild of French architect Jacques Rougerie. Set to begin construction this spring, the 190-foot-tall semisubmersible vessel will be the culmination of nearly 30 years of Rougerie’s research and development.

Six of the SeaOrbiter’s 12 floors are below sea level, allowing for uninterrupted underwater observation. Although the ship’s main mission is to research the biodiversity and climate of the sea, the real goal for Rougerie is to give the public a better understanding of how crucial the ocean is to Earth’s well-being.

Ninety-nine percent of the $50 million project was financed through the French government and private companies. To get people more involved, Rougerie is crowdfunding the last 1 percent of the project. “The more humans understand about the underwater world, the more respect they will have for it,” he says.

22 People: Number the SeaOrbiter can host. The ship will carry a mix of scientists and crew members.

Quite a View: ‘We want people to appropriate the project to themselves,” says Rougerie. Which is why he raised money through KissKissBankBank, a French crowdsourcing website, to fund construction of the Eye of the SeaOrbiter. Equivalent to a ship’s crow’s nest, the Eye towers 60 feet above the surface. It serves as a lookout and houses a communications system that lets the crew send live broadcasts of life on board.

Hard at Work: Keeping busy won’t be a problem for the crew. The “modular lab” can be used as a laboratory for scientists as well as a fitness room equipped with treadmills. The lab also includes a medical zone. A certified doctor with basic surgery skills will be on board in the event of an emergency.

2,600 Tons Displacement: The overall weight of the ship. It is built from 500 tons of Sealium, a recyclable aluminum designed for marine environments.

A Life Aquatic: Given that voyages will last three to six months, there will be ample time to collect data and perform experiments. The underwater area, known as the hyperbaric lab, is equipped with an observation deck made of transparent polycarbonate panels, allowing for direct underwater observation. Because the conditions underwater are similar to those in space in terms of pressure and isolation, the SeaOrbiter will be used by NASA and ESA (the European equivalent) for protocol training as well as physiological and psychological experiments.

Go With the Flow: The SeaOrbiter was designed primarily to float along with the ocean’s natural currents, allowing scientists to study the relationship between those currents and climate. The keel weighs 180 tons and helps provide stability to the ship. It can be retracted when the vessel is in shallow water.

5 Ships: The total number of SeaOrbiters Rougerie eventually hopes to build, one to sail in each of Earth’s oceans. A number of partners have given their support to the SeaOrbiter project, including National Geographic and UNESCO.

IMAGE: Courtesy Company
From the March 2014 issue of Inc. magazine

Update: How You Can Earn Money By Investing In Solar Projects

Back in September, I wrote about Mosaic, a forward thinking company based in Oakland, CA that puts people together with solar projects. The idea is to fund projects via crowd sourcing and pay investors interest on the loans they make. For as little as $25, you can invest in any number of projects that are posted on the company’s site.

When I first ran across the idea, it appealed to me on several levels. I am a firm believer in solar energy and had solar panels installed on my condo. Doing so has lowered my utility bills by about $1,000 annually. I was familiar with crowd sourcing, having participated in KIVA loans for several years, but earning income was a new twist that intrigued me. I investigated Mosaic and decided to stick my toe in the water to see what would happen. I am fortunate to have a nest egg to usher me through my golden years and I sold some stock in Exxon—something I have been doing slowly over time to avoid paying huge capital gains taxes—and invested $2,500 divided evenly between two projects. One of the projects, U.S. Foods in Albuquerque, NM, pays 5.75% over 120 months. The other is a bee farm in Red Bluff, CA and that one pays 5.5% over a period of 144 months.

On October 22, I was notified that U.S. Foods was fully funded and had signed the note. My payback was soon to begin! I have not yet received notification that the bee farm has signed their note, but upon checking the Mosaic site, it should be soon because the loan is now fully funded.

Today I am reporting that I have received my first payment from U.S. Foods in the amount of $13.57. That represents my interest earned as well as repayment of part of the principal on the loan.

If U.S. Foods is any indication of how this thing works, I should be getting a payment from the bee farm next month. I have no doubt that I will. The bee farm is round 2 of a project that was fully funded and has been up and running since before I invested in the second phase.

I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you consider the interest rate I’m earning, it’s a great deal more than I made in dividends from Exxon, which pays under 3% annually. Not to mention that I believe—no, I am certain—that not only are fossil fuels harming our environment, they are part of the past. I wish to go forward into a sustainable future and I think it’s great that I can put my money where my mouth is and make money while doing so. As I said in my first article, it gives a whole new meaning to going green. I feel good about investing in green energy and making a bit of green by doing so. You can be sure that I will be looking into more projects and investing more of my money with a company that is on the cutting edge of a new direction for small investors.

Ann Werner is a blogger and the author of CRAZY and Dreams and Nightmares. You can view her work at ARK Stories.

Visit her on Twitter @MsWerner and Facebook