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Cities on the sea

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William B Stoecker: ome years ago I visited Bolivia and travelled on Lake Titicaca, first by hydrofoil and then in a canoe made of bundled totora reeds and paddled by a grinning, buck-toothed Indian. We landed on a man-made floating island, also composed of totora reeds. It was inhabited by Unos Indians, most of whom now speak Aymara and Spanish; in the past they lived on these floating islands as security against attack by other tribes; now they do it partly to attract tourists and partly as an experiment. In southern Iraq, the Ma’dan, or Marsh Arabs live in houses with arched roofs of reed thatch, partly on dry land and partly on artificial islands of woven reeds, raising buffalo, sheep, and cattle, growing pearl millet, rice, wheat, and barley, and fishing and selling reed mats. As might be expected, there are problems with sanitation and obtaining pure drinking water, and the Ma’dan suffer from malaria and numerous other diseases. Yet the idea of floating islands holds a certain fascination.

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You raise an interesting premise Mr Stoecker.

Whilst a floating island is certainly within the wit of Man, I wonder what advantages it would offer above those of living on a remote, natural Island. Of course the issues of Sovereignty would be foremost as I do not believe that any land mass on this planet remains unclaimed by one nation or another, even though there are 10's of thousands of uninhabited Islands. These National claims exist purely to increase the Sovereign Area of a Nation or to ensure its own security.

So, back to the floating Island idea... I would think that as a base for the Island then Pumice (encased in a heavy polyethylene netting) would make for a very good substrate material as its Specific Gravity is less than that of water (due to trapped air cavities in the rock) .

Siting the floating Island would also need very careful consideration to remain outside of National Jurisdiction. I would suggest siting it in an Oceanic Eddy initially (during construction) such as in the Sargasso Sea ( link to Eddy A4 Research: http://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/viewArticle.do?id=10592 ).

It would also have the advantage of enormous floating mats of Sargassum seaweed that could be utilised to produce methane as an energy source, and as a source for producing nutrient rich foodstuffs for the population. The other energy source would be methane plants from the human waste generated.

I think in terms of protein then fish farming is the logical solution as is Fishing for pelagic species. I think the Island would need to be meat free because the logistics of providing feed for ruminants is just too daunting. It would also be very easy to create shellfish colonies from ropes suspended from the Island.

Energy would come mostly from solar sources, and tidal turbine source (these would need to be embedded on the ocean floor to take advantage of the current to produce turbine energy). Another possibility (alluded to in your article) would be thermal pump energy, using the very cold ocean depths interracting with the warmer surface water to produce a turbine effect. The only issue (for a very long term basis) is smelting sufficient silver (best conductor) and Copper from the metallic rich waters in the area, so probably collecting the metallic nodules from the sea floor is the only answer.

Water is a major problem with the Sargasso Sea in the middle of the Doldrums. Using solar evaporation of Seawater to produce fresh water would be the only , non technological; means of producing it. However you would need to construct a huge Polyethylene dome to actually collect enough. It could be done though, and using polyethylene would give you the durability for a few centuries to not have to worry about regular renewing of the dome.

Habitations would also need to be constructed from some Plastic polymer intitially to ensure that structural integrity is maintained for several decades at least.

The most important thing though is what do you do for recreation?

Just a few ideas

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There are three known problems for sea or ocean islands that don't essentially apply to lakes: 1) the tides caused by the sun and moon; 2) very large quakes under the ocean bed; 3) rogue waves. Very bad weather (typhoons, hurricanes, etc.) may possibly be quelled by advances in weather modification in the future. The real question is whether the oceans are destined to be humanity's friend or foe. Unfortunately, oceans will become, and are already becoming, depositories for all kinds of pollutants, and completely devoid of living organisms. Under this scenario, we will be escaping to other solar systems before cleaning up and taming the polluted ocean water becomes feasible. The current warming trend simply accentuates the problems.

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