1973 . Underwater village
In 1973, Jacques Rougerie dreamed of underwater habitats and imagined a submerged village where men can live beneath the sea. This project became the embryo for other future underwater structures. Originally planned for the NOAA and NASA, two of the largest US research agencies in marine and space science respectively, this project in the Virgin Islands of the Caribbean was intended as a base for a real community of aquanauts.
The village, submerged at a depth of between 15 and 30 metres, was designed to accommodate 50 to 250 aquanauts and astronauts. Its architecture, inspired by shapes from nature (bionics) and dictated by the special conditions of underwater community life, was later adapted to the study and management of sub-aquatic resources.
1977 . Galathée
The first underwater house built by Jacques Rougerie was launched and immersed on 4th August 1977. The unique feature of this semi-mobile habitat-laboratory is that it can be moored at any depth between 9 and 60 metres, which gives it the capability of phased integration in the marine environment. This habitat therefore has a limited impact on the marine ecosystem and is easy to position.
1978 . Aquabulle
Launched for the first time in March 1978, this underwater shelter suspended in midwater (between 0 and 60 metres) is a mini scientific observatory 2.8 metres high by 2.5 metres in diameter. The Aquabulle can accommodate 3 people for a period of several hours and acts as an underwater refuge. A series of Aquabulles were later built and some are still being used by laboratories.
1979 . Aquascope
This semi-submersible trimaran designed for underwater leisure observation operates on a variable buoyancy principle which delivers exceptional underwater views through its large panoramic portholes. A series of 25 Aquascopes were built and some are still sailing today.
1981 . Hippocampe
This underwater habitat was launched in 1981 to act as a scientific base suspended in midwater using the same method as Galathée. Hippocampe can accommodate 2 people on saturation dives up to a depth of 12 metres for periods of 7 to 15 days, and was also designed to act as a subsea logistics base for the offshore industry.
1982 . Aquaspace
Launched in 1982, this aluminium trimaran with a transparent central hull allows 12-18 people to observe the underwater fauna and flora continuously from an observation deck below the waterline where its passengers have a close-up view of the sub-aquatic world.
Still in use around the Netherlands Antilles, Aquaspace was an effective platform for research and filming, and pioneered a new concept in marine biology studies from the surface.
Jules Verne was a visionary author who wrote adventure stories from the perspective of scientific discovery. His description of the undersea world in his futuristic novel “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” has inspired many generations, riveted by the gripping adventures of the Nautilus and its famous Captain Nemo.
His vision of how technology could allow people to move freely in the undersea world as well as his philosophical and ecological ideas had a powerful influence on Jacques Rougerie, who adopted the maxim of this great writer from Nantes:
“Anything one man can imagine, other men are capable of realising”.
Son of the famous Auguste Piccard who pioneered the stratospheric balloon, Jacques Piccard was one of the greatest explorers of the ocean abysses in the second half of the 20th century. He had a keen interest in submarines and designed numerous models, but is most famous as the inventor of the Bathyscaphe, one of which has gone down in history.
On January 23rd 1960, on board the Trieste in the company of US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh, he reached the record depth of 10,916 metres in the deepest part of the Mariana Trench in the Western Pacific, a record which remains unequalled to this day. Jacques Piccard together with Jacques Rougerie would go on to develop the idea of a vessel drifting in the major currents which culminated in the birth of SeaOrbiter.
The father of modern diving thanks in no small way to the invention of the aqua-lung which he pioneered with the engineer Emile Gagnan, Jacques-Yves Cousteau was one of the three famous "Mousquemers" (musketeers of the sea). Between them, they popularised diving and opened up the underwater world to the public at large, Cousteau in particular taking the route of the cinema and television.
Promoted to the rank of Captain, Cousteau thrilled a whole generation with his adventures aboard his expedition vessel Calypso, which propelled him to world stardom. He was also the first to install houses on the seabed, inspiring Jacques Rougerie in particular to create a branch of marine architecture for use in underwater exploration.
The first Frenchman and the first European in space and the first non-Russian and non-American to walk in space, Jean-Loup Chrétien has three flights to his name, Salyut 7 in 1982, MIR in 1988 and the Shuttle Atlantis in 1997. After a period as an astronaut for the French government space agency CNES then as a NASA astronaut, he held numerous senior positions in the US space administration.
Passionate about the underwater world, he is a long-time friend of Jacques Rougerie and notably has been instrumental in getting the space agencies, particularly NASA, on board the SeaOrbiter project, initiating the link between space and ocean now at the heart of the SeaOrbiter programme.
A visionary architect born in 1945 and passionate about the sea, Jacques Rougerie has, for more than 30 years, based his research and the structures he has built on bionic architecture inspired mainly by marine biological forms and a concern for sustainable development, drawing attention to the beauty and fragility of the sea and its fundamental role in the great story of humanity. Jacques Rougerie builds underwater habitats, laboratories, marine research centres, vessels with see-through hulls, sub-aquatic museums; and designs underwater villages and dwellings, successfully combining his two passions of the sea and architecture.
Like a true underwater explorer, he tests his own creations and has even lived several times in subsea habitats, famously participating in the world record achievement of 71 days under the sea in the United States.
His latest marine project, SeaOrbiter, is a synthesis of more than 30 years of innovative research in marine and subsea architecture. In the same vein as SeaOrbiter and among his other projects, Jacques Rougerie is inventing a mobile floating hotel and university.
SeaOrbiter continues the legacy of Jules Verne, Jacques Piccard and Jacques-Yves Cousteau, exceptional visionaries who have influenced Jacques Rougerie in his 30 years of research.
These illustrious predecessors inspired Jacques Rougerie to create a series of unique vessels which have opened up new fields in underwater exploration.
SeaOrbiter is a synthesis of all of the vessels and mobile underwater homes that Jacques Rougerie has designed and built. It is a vertically aligned vessel organized as a platform for science, education and the dissemination of information.