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Bioengineer aspires to colonize the sea

By Alex Pasternack, Motherboard editor
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Living, working undersea is man's dream
  • Dennis Chamberland aspires to make undersea human habitation a reality
  • Joined NASA as a bioengineer in the mid '80s
  • Explorer became one of the country's leading proponents of undersea habitation
  • NASA
  • Oceanography

Editor's note: The staff at has recently been intrigued by the journalism of VICE, an independent media company and website based in Brooklyn, New York. VBS.TV is Vice's broadband television network. The reports, which are produced solely by VICE, reflect a transparent approach to journalism, where viewers are taken along on every step of the reporting process. We believe this unique reporting approach is worthy of sharing with our readers.

Brooklyn, New York (VBS.TV) -- Dennis Chamberland doesn't just want to live underwater: he wants anyone to join him. And he's determined to make that a reality within a decade.

Chamberland joined NASA as a bioengineer in the mid '80s, just as the manned space program was starting to thunder forward. But rather than looking up to the stars, he began looking down - deep down. As a developer of the agency's Advanced Space Life Support Systems, which monitors the safety for all off-planet habitation pursuits, Chamberland soon became a lead proponent of research on an idea being floated by NASA at the time: using the sea as a testbed for space exploration. Before long, this homegrown explorer would become one of the country's leading proponents of undersea habitation, and an advocate for what he calls the "space-ocean analog."

An aquanaut and Mission Commander on seven NASA underwater missions, Chamberland has also pursued landmark research in bioengineering and become a prolific writer of science books and sci-fi novels. But it was his work for NASA that resulted in his harvesting of the first agricultural crop in a manned habitat on the sea floor, and led to his designing and construction of the Scott Carpenter Space Analog Station, a two man undersea habitat off Key Largo. The little permanent submarine has been visited by a range of curious futurist explorers, including James Cameron and TV producer Rod Roddenberry, Jr.

See the rest of The Aquatic Life of Dennis Chamberland at VBS.TV

Chamberland's next goal, he explains in this episode of Motherboard: colonizing the sea. To move humans to an underwater "Aquatica," as he calls the habitable regions of the ocean, he launched the Atlantica Expeditions, which are attempting to build the first underwater settlement for permanent human colonization. This isn't a glossy sci-architectural lark or a toe-dip. Starting with the premise that nearly three quarters of our planet's largest biome have long remained invisible - and are increasingly endangered - the Atlantica project seeks "a human colony whose primary purpose it is to monitor and protect this most essential of all the earth's biomes. Soon, beneath the sea, families will live and work. Children will go to school. A new generation of children will be born there - the first citizens of a new ocean civilization whose most important purpose will be to continuously monitor and protect the global ocean environment."

Set to commence by next year, the first expedition will be initiated by the submersion of the Leviathan, a small underwater habitat that can house up to four people. He's not only certain that the colonization of the ocean floor is imminent; he's making it happen.