Is It Possible for Us to Engineer Something Like This?

And I mean today, not in 10 years or 50 years when we figure out how to make “unobtainium” or some other kind of material which doesn’t exist yet, but with modern day materials we already have.

My idea is this:

Put a large dome around the wreck of the Titanic with a shaft leading up to the surface of the ocean, pump all the water out of the dome and shaft, install an elevator so that folks can go down without being in subs to view the wreck. Now, of course, I realize that the air hitting the wreck won’t be good for it (it’s not exactly doing very well being surrounded by water, either.) and that no one’s ever going to come up with the necessary dollars for this to be possible, but ever since I thought of this in high school (about a year or so before the wreck was discovered) I thought that it’d be a pretty nifty idea.

So could we do it? Do we have materials that are up to the task? Or would it be so impossibly complicated that we won’t be able to do it for quite some time?

My gut tells me it could be done with current technology. It would be very difficult, however. Titanic is at a depth of 2 1/2 miles and pressures down there run around 6,000 PSI.

Well, just make the dome out of really really thick steel - that should do the trick. The main problem I see is making sure water doesn’t leak under the bottom - I guess one could sharpen the edges of the hemispherical dome to sink a couple dozen feet into the sea floor.
Also, getting the dome positioned correctly would be a pain.

      • Concrete would probably work. Concrete will set under water!
  • I read somewhere that the metal of the Titanic actually hadn’t suffered that much damage from corrosion. It is soaking in salt water, but there’s not a lot of free gases at that depth, and the water is just above freezing. It looks “rounded” because of algae growing on it, not because all the edges rusted off. One of the main concerns about sending manned subs to it was that they might get their props entagled in the leftover rigging. I dunno if any rope survived that long (there are critters that eat such organic matter down there) but cables and wiring were still laying about.
  • That said, if it can be done, is only the first part of the question. The second part is if enough people would pay to see it, to make any profit. Which brings us to the observation that what you are proposing is essentially turning an accidental graveyard into a tourist attraction, and that a lot of people might object to that on the grounds of insensitivity. Why not leave the WTC tower reckage in place, dig some tunnels through it and run tours through there?

The return trip would take a lot of time. Don’t want the bends. Didn’t the engineer of the Brooklyn bridge get the bends going down inside the pylons they built under the water?

2 1/2 miles is a lot of decompression to to deal with. Makes the touristy end of things seem impractical by my way of reasoning.

IIRC, the hull is degrading because of organisms similar to those found at volcanic vents are happily chewing away at the steel.

Also, if you want to include it all, the Titanic is spread over about 3 miles or so of the ocean floor. So you’d need a dome with about a 3 mile diameter – is that possible? I can’t think of any such building built anywhere, even on the surface of the earth.

Then there’s the question of elevators 2-1/2 miles high. Could they even lift the weight of their own cables? Current tall buildings, like the Empire State Building, are only about 1/25th of that height.

Plus what would happen to the Titanic once it is exposed to air again, after 80 years? Quite possible that without the support of water holding it up, the whole ship might just collapse to the floor of the ocean. It would surely start to rust at a really fast rate.

And let’s not even get into the legalities of trying to do such a thing.

Reality check. The ocean floor is not a solid, waterproof surface, like the bottom of a swimming pool or something. There’s a significant depth of mud and sediment, and water-permeable rock undr that. As you try to remove the water from inside your dome the staggering pressure at that depth is simply going to force the mud beneath the wreck to flow under the edges and into the dome. And even if you somehow remove all the mid, you’re still going to get lots of water flowing in out of the rock itself.

To make this work, you’ll probably have to make a complete sphere around the wreck. And if you’re going to do that, you might as well just bring it to the surface.

Well, you could break them up into several runs. Or they could be self powered, drawing electricity from rails and having their own motors bult right in–no cables. Of course you’d want a hell of a good safety system in place. A plunge of 2 1/2 miles would be no fun at all.

There is little to no algae at that depth. Algae needs light to grow, not much light at 2 miles deep.

What is corroding it are various exotic bacteria metabolizing and dissolving the iron itself, creating acidic “rustcicles” as they go. Apparantly the decay’s pretty bad - I suspect that if you somehow removed the water from around the wreck, it would just collapse in a heap.

Bucky Fuller designed a geodesic dome to cover NYC, and another one for St. Louis. (Neither of them has been built as of yet, but they’re certainly possible.)

Perhaps staged elevators where one gets on one, goes to a certain level, steps off it, and then gets on a different one.


True, as I mention in my OP.


Well, Dewey, minty and the other lawyers seem to be busy railing at one another in a Pit thread at the moment, so we should be safe for the moment. :wink:

So, I’m the only one concerned with the decompression time issue? Huh.

For anyone who can tell me: How long would the return trip (from ocean* floor to surface) need to be? Or, would some currently feasible design allow for bypassing this issue?

*also known as “sea”

Since the top would be open to the atmosphere, it would be at atmospheric pressure + the pressure of the 2.5 miles of air in the shaft. There wouldn’t be any decompression issue.

Hmmm… I had pictured the elevator cars to be sealed units (for safety’s sake), opening into the atmosphere of the dome under the sea, instead of the elevator shaft being a snorkle (more or less) for the big ass dome.

Which way would be more feasible?

Any inherent safety issues for either approach?

Well, the open-shaft approach avoids the whole decompression issue, which as you point out, would be serious, otherwise. I can’t think of any real benefit to a sealed-shaft design, except that it might keep ocean storm swells from flooding the shaft. But that could be dealt with by building the shaft up high enough above the water line.

Speaking of storm swells, that brings up another potential pitfall. You’d need to make the shaft strong enough to keep from being knocked over. A 2.5 mile structure under water would bend VERY easily, since it’s extremely thin relative to its height.

Why don’t we all just get together and build a replica of Titanic instead?

If you must put the Titanic on display, it would be much easier to provide a lot of net-linked robot subs-

you could pay for the privilege of controlling your own submersible, complete with stereoscopic cameras to give a 3d view;
this sort of virtual tourism with user-controlled cameras might be applicable to several types of location, perhaps coral reefs, wildlife reserves, near Earth orbit or even the Moon.

SF worldbuilding at

I’m going out on a limb here in saying such a dome would be absolutely impossible with current or predictable technologies. If you ask again in five years, who knows? Now, h owever, I don’t think it can be done. The problem as I see it deals with matters of scale. As the dome increases in size, the amount of reinforcing you have to use increases at a much greater rate. At the extreme end you end up with more steel than open space. Maybe not in this case, but the bigger the dome, the bigger the percentage of that dome that will be taken up with reinforcement. Can someone smarter than me explain it in better terms?

Everyone’s gone over the stuff that I don’t know about, so I’ll just say this: Wouldn’t you need one heck of a surface base to make this feasible?

You’d need to: Have adequate landing/docking space for helicopters/ships, provide comfortable quarters for overnight stays, provide some kind of entertainment so people aren’t just standing around, provide quarters for a crew, feed everybody, somehow provide bathrooms for everyone, and, presumably, ensure the whole assembly didn’t move too much and snap it off the “shaft” of the elevator.

Maybe a better solution would be an old cruise ship fitted with a couple of deep-sea submarines that could carry tourists?

The shaft might have to be pressurized to reduce materials and make it lighter. The elevator can enter at 1atm, enter a pressure lock where the elevator is compressed to the pressurse at the depth, but the inside (passenger compartmant) is held at 1atm. After leaving the pressure lock, the shaft could be of normal shaft consturction (whatever that is).

When the elevator gets to the bottom it can enter another pressur lock, or even a docking port where the elevator passanger compartment can be unloaded to 1 atm.

This design also solved the problem of a 2.5 mile freefall since the elevator will be moving through a liquid.

So now we need to construct a bubble around the ship, pump the water out, and most likely continously pump as the seals won’t be 100%.

I’d say we can build the shaft but not the dome curently