That's the SeaOrbiter, a 200-foot tall floating platform for aquatic exploration, and construction on it is due to begin this spring. It is the brainchild and passion project of a French ocean explorer named Jacques—no, not that one: Jacques Rougerie, a "sea architect" who has spent over a decade designing and securing funding for the concept, in addition to his 30 years of research in subsea architecture.
Slightly over half of the structure will be submerged, and as you can see the core of the design is a sort of eight-story building housing a variety of labs and living quarters for the crew. The underside of the structure houses dive pits, special pressurized living quarters and "underwater garages." Human divers living at atmospheric pressure can get down to 50 meters below the surface, while "saturation divers" living in the pressureized chambers can get down to 100 meters; beyond that, the SeaOrbiter will deploy exploration vehicles that can travel down to 1,000 meters, and will also deploy a bad-ass diving drone that can descend to 6,000 meters.
Rougerie was able to secure some 70% of the €35 million required for construction, then turned to a Kickstarter-lookalike crowdfunding site called KissKissBankBank for the remaining 30%. The target was finally reached just last week, and construction is scheduled to begin shortly.
Although we referrde to the SeaOrbiter as a passion project, by that we don't mean it's a personality-quirk-driven flight of fancy, we mean that Rougerie's unwavering drive has seen the project through. Indeed he feels that the platform and the research it will conduct is "crucial for mankind," and ticks off some stats to drive the point home: Seventy-one percent of the planet is ocean, yet 90% of it is still unexplored, and an estimated two-thirds of marine life has yet to be discovered.
The ocean is at the heart of the planetary system, being together the engine and the lung of the planet. It must therefore be placed at the center of our daily considerations. We must build a new social-economical model for the world, integrating in a responsible and sustainable way the ocean as a main source for innovations and solutions for the planet and therefore as a value of progress.
Here's Rougerie's original pitch video explaining the project: