Submerged megastructures are exactly what humanity needs to drive our aquatic evolution, and it’s great that some folks are thinking, and planning, that way. Recent news from Norway has revealed ambitious plans for submerged tunnels that allow traffic to cross its fjords, without an obtrusive bridge hopping from land.
Now, it goes without saying that such a submerged structure is incredibly complicated to design, let alone install. On the design front, the structure itself must tolerate the stress that comes with pressure at depth, and must combat the aquatic elements – tidal surge, waves, currents, cold temperatures, and biofouling
An ambitious new plan in Norway would install a series of “submerged floating bridges” to help travelers easily cross the nation’s many fjords. At present, the only way to travel across the bodies…
Did I mention biofouling? Biofouling is essentially the growth of marine organisms on bare substrate. While the little critters consider bare substrate an opportunity to take up residence and that can be a good thing for the environment, biofouling can be an engineer’s worst nightmare. First, the added weight of this growth can impact structures considerably. Second, some organisms can actually bore into structures and cause structural damage. Lastly, the need to clean or remove biofouling is laborious (think subaquatic job security 101), and the act of removal can also damage structures given that the removal methods often require high pressure water blasting, scraping, or cavitation cleaning – all of which are harsh on the surfaces being cleaned.
Good news for the like of me – that means job security for we divers. There have been automated biofouling removal systems put into place in recent years such as ROVs equipped with cavitation tools, or robotic rotary scrub brushes mush like those little vacuum robots that roam your house while you are away. At the end of the day however, a diver will absolutely be needed for the details nooks and crannies, and most certainly to provide a visual and tactile inspection of critical hardware and surfaces. Now, while that need is seemingly obvious for we divers, this is also among the most overlooked needs in marine construction. So, when the time comes for routine husbandry, inspections, and maintenance, it is always a fight to find funds to enlist professional diver support to do the job correctly.
Perhaps one of these days, divers will be held in higher regard and viewed as key players at the table during project planning and infrastructure financing meetings. That elevated stature within the global community will contribute measurably to these types of submerged megastructures, and ensure success now and in the future. Consider that for the type of underwater tunnel planned for Norway, there should be one or several manned dive teams, and almost certain[ebayfeedsforwordpress feed=”null” items=”null”]ly ROV teams supporting the structure 24/7 – for security observation, inspections, routine maintenance, and the husbandry we described. That’s very exciting for those in the aquatic realm, as it will help to elevate the community all round, and create a model for future subsea development.
Until then, we will keep trudging through the mud, and keep dreaming about an aquatic state of being, and an aquatic state of mind.