Underwater living project
It all looks distinctly sci-fi fantasy: a diver approaching an underwater dome, an artificial reef teeming with fish in the background and, in the distance, the surreal shapes of underwater sculptures.
Yet all of this is set to become a reality in the near future, as the vision of Gold Coast man Shaun Waterford hooks up with Billinudgel company Dome Shells Australia to create an exciting new concept that will have far-reaching benefits for tourism and the environment.
This is a unique construction company that will supply the world-wide market with concrete underwater habitats, artificial lakes and reef systems and tourism centres.
“There are very few new spectacular engineering projects these days, and this is one of the very few,” Shaun said.
Shaun's project has “loads of different components” to it, and is the result of five years of research and development by a man who turned his boyhood passion for diving into a thesis, which then led to his spending two years with a NASA think tank at Cape Canaveral.
The Habitat Waterford is a movable underwater semi-permanent living space – think underwater caravan – that is transportable and utilises a sophisticated energy technology for indefinite submersion.
“It began as an intellectual pursuit,” Shaun said.
“But, as I got more obsessive, I thought about the ramifications of building it out of concrete, something that is cheap and readily available.”
With domes having the strongest shape and able to be constructed out of concrete, a partnership with Dome Shells at Billinudgel was the next step.
“I think what he wants to do is a wonderful idea,” Chris Brown, from Dome Shells, said.
“It is something he has been talking about with us over a number of years.
“It has the potential to be used internationally.”
The “underwater caravan” has the potential to be used as an aquaculture station, ocean monitoring station, a tourist location or a remote getaway, and there is a plan for the prototype to be used to break the record for the longest uninterrupted stay beneath water.
“The record now stands at 69 days, but our team intends to go down for three months,” Shaun said.
Another key component of the project is an artificial reef system using a concrete artificial reef unit, with an international track record in over 59 countries, that can protect as well as rehabilitate reefs.
“The key to their success is that they mimic natural reefs in form and function, quickly increasing fish numbers and diversity, as well as being rapidly colonised by corals, algae and sponges,” Shaun said.
Shaun also has a vision to involve local artists in his creation by inviting them to contribute to an underwater sculpture park that would complement everything taking place in the underwater kingdom.
Shaun is now on the lookout for a location for the prototype, and both he and Chris see the mouth of Tweed River as ideal in terms of convenience and suitability.
“All this would be at no cost to the local community, and sponsored by the corporate sector,” Shaun said.
“It would bring to the area international publicity, tourism promotion and an area for the community to enjoy.”