“Camp” is a strong word. The Ocean Space Habitat—an underwater basecamp of sorts designed by National Geographic explorer Michael Lombardi in collaboration with NYU professor Winslow Burleson—offers a dry chamber where divers can spend time assessing samples, eating, talking with fellow divers, and even nap as they await the decompression process.
According to National Geographic, Lombardi shares that the real intent is to encourage “productive use of unproductive time.” A gadget like this allows a diver to spend much more time underwater partaking in something called saturation diving. This is when someone spends an elongated amount of time underwater instead of returning to the surface periodically to return their body to surface pressure. To do this, there needs to be some sort of underwater haven to breathe at these deep depths. Often, these are diving bells—tight quarters that allow divers to breathe while still maintaining the same body pressure as the water around them.
Burleson says it best in an interview with National Geographic: “[It’s] like turning a short hike in the woods into a weekend-long camping excursion. The habitat allows you to do more of what you’re coming for, whether you’re a photographer or coral researcher or citizen scientist.” The real benefit of the Ocean Space Habitat is how portable it is. National Geographic shares that most undersea bases are not—the new design can be packed up and checked in as luggage, if need be.
This habitat is much less expensive to make, as well, making it a cheaper option for divers and companies that employ saturation divers. What the decrease in cost could mean for travelers: A smaller price tag makes this kind of gear more accessible to small tour companies, meaning you may even see this come available for tourists.
This design is in the early stages: Lombardi and Burleson are still on the hunt for those willing to take the Ocean Space Habitat out in the wild.