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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Research for Oceania: The Underwater City—Part 2

*In my last blog post, I highlighted some of my research for Oceania: The Underwater City. It covered bathymetry, underwater submersibles and structures, ROVs, and the deep sea. If you missed it, you can read it here.

As I stated in my last post, NASA gave me some of the best information needed to make my novel as realistic as possible. In addition to the research I obtained from NASA’s website, I also looked into hydraulics, future predictions of global climate change, sea ice melt, how solar panels work, and even firsthand accounts of expeditions to the ocean floor. In this second research installment, I’ll be covering a bit of each, starting with how waste and water are treated.

Waste and Water Treatment

The best information I read about how to re-use water, air, and treat waste was from my research on the ISS. Any liquid added to the air from breathing, perspiration, or anything else is condensed and returned to the general water supply. And yes, it does include urine. On the ISS, urine, water from oral hygiene, hand washing, and humidity in the air are all used. Due to the fact that distilling seawater takes a lot of energy and doing so for millions of people could become a problem, I treated Oceania as a space station in the way that water should be recycled and never taken for granted. Just like on the ISS, the atmosphere of Oceania has to be regulated at a certain pressure, temperature, and humidity.

As far as waste treatment goes, the 2004 article I read on the NASA site I found stated that all the human waste was returned to Earth. Well, for Oceania that wouldn’t be possible and I had already come up with a bacteria that could not only eat the waste, but also give off energy in the process. However, I was excited to find out from the NASA article that a real such bacterium does exist, which I explained all about in my blog post on the 20th of January. If you haven’t read it yet, you can read it here.

If you’re interested in reading more about waste and water treatment on the ISS, check out these links:


Not knowing much about hydraulics, but knowing that the city would have need of them, I looked into hydraulic systems. I found out that water is rarely used as hydraulic fluid because of corrosion and turbulence. Petroleum oil is used to power today’s hydraulic systems, which would not be possible for a green city in a world post-oil. Water would be a renewable source for the city and is more energy efficient than oil, so I wanted it to be used. I discovered an article about a lawn mower that students at Purdue University made. In order to work, the systems would have to be perfectly engineered for water. Although it seems unlikely to happen in the near future, I went with it.

If you’re interested in reading about the lawn mower or about hydraulics, you can check out the following two links:

Sea Ice Melting and the Above World in 2276

After determining how the city of Oceania would work and run, I wanted to get a feel for the world that Allie would be coming from. I read various articles on the predictions of the effects of climate change in the next 200 plus years. I took anything and everything into account to build the world of the Land Dwellers. Of course, not every prediction was the same, so I paid attention to where they overlapped and even did some math to find the average change in temperature or sea level rises.

As for the new level of the oceans, I’d learned about the potential catastrophic rise in sea levels through a class I’d taken on Environmental Science and by reading National Geographic. I used their handy map in their September 2013 issue to find out where Allie could be from that would be near the ocean. For San Francisco, I found a map that showed what San Francisco would look like if all the ice caps melted. In the end, I decided to exaggerate the projections of ice melt by the year 2276. It’s highly unlikely that the sea levels will rise 100 feet in the next 260 years, but who knows what the future will hold.

If you’d like to see the world map if all the ice melted from National Geographic, you can click here:

Firsthand Accounts

Since I’ve never been one of the lucky few to go in a submersible to the bottom of the ocean floor, I wanted to read someone’s firsthand account. I’d seen the documentary Deepsea Challenge, and even though it was helpful, it still wasn’t good enough for my novel’s purpose. Although, if you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it. Anyway, I found some articles in National Geographic from two people who’d traveled to the ocean floor in the 1950s. The two men were Jacques Cousteau and Georges S. Houot. The only problem was that both didn’t go as deep as the city. However, between the Deepsea Challenge documentary and the firsthand accounts from the ‘50s, I got an idea of what Allie might be feeling as she’s alone surrounded by blackness in the bathypelagic zone.

If you’re interested in reading the articles from the 1950s, you’d have to get access to National Geographic’s digital archives or have The Complete National Geographic on your computer. The one with Jacques Cousteau is in the July 1954 issue, pages 66-79. There were two from Georges S. Houot that I read and they were in the same issue as the Jacques Cousteau one (pages 80-86) and in the May 1958 issue, pages 714-731.

Solar Panels and Additional Research

Another topic that I researched included how solar panels work. In the end, it wound up being a lot of information useless for my purposes, but now I know a lot about solar panels that I didn’t know before! The same goes for how materials are recycled. I looked into what could and couldn’t be recycled as well as what it takes to recycle materials. Most of it didn’t make it into the novel, but I’m more knowledgeable for it. At the least, they helped me to describe a few of the scenes with Dylan and Allie in the city.

In addition to all of the above, I even researched small things that I’m sure most of you never even considered such as the time of the attack on Fort Sumter and the phase of the moon in the sky that early morning, the exact pressure at both 10,500ft (the depth of the apex of Oceania’s dome) and 12,000ft (the base of the city). I used paintings of the signing of the Declaration of Independence to describe the scene and images of the real Declaration of Independence itself to describe how the title was written. There are more topics I researched, but it would take longer than it took you to read the book to describe them.


During my research, I considered the issues that currently impede ocean colonization and realistically tried to reason what could be invented by 2276. To make Oceania as believable as possible, I came up with inventions to fill the holes in our current knowledge. Some of them may exist someday, others may not. In the end, I came up with several of my own inventions to compensate for the gaps in technology. All in all, I spent weeks’ worth of research and I loved every moment of it. There are so many amazing things to discover and learn about in our world. So, if you have the time and the desire, look up some of the research links mentioned above. Every bit of it is fascinating (at least to me anyway).

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and if you have any comments, you can leave them here on my blog or email me directly at elizataye@gmail.com.

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