THE BLOG

Privatising Underwater Tourism to the Titanic

09/10/2014 19:28 BST | Updated 09/12/2014 10:59 GMT

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73 years after the Titanic's sinking, Robert Ballard and his team finally spotted the ship's last resting place using a remotely controlled deep-sea vehicle called Argo. The haunting wreckage on the seafloor is a sight that very few pioneering individuals have seen.

But imagine being able to book an overnight trip to visit this most famous of sunken shipwrecks, or 'fly' over the bubbling hydrothermal vents deep in the Mariana Trench, where only a handful of humans have explored before.

The surface of our planet is two-thirds water, but very little time and energy is focused on exploring our seas. The first commercial space flights will launch in 2015, but meanwhile, we know more about the surfaces of the Moon and Mars than we do about Earth's deep sea floor. The fact that we've spent months looking for Flight MH370 demonstrates that there is so much more to learn.

There is a clear public fascination with the sea and the life within it. This week, following on from Fabien Cousteau's Mission 31, professors Bruce Cantrell and Jessica Fain began what will be a record-breaking 73-day stretch of time living in an underwater habitat in their 'Classroom Under the Sea'. Thousands of followers on social media are tuning in to watch their lectures and videos about the marine world.

Underwater tourism should be the catalyst for greater ocean conservation. Leading figures from around the world are calling for a new era in ocean exploration.

Richard Branson - Virgin Galactic's founder - is an Ocean Elder along with oceanographer Sylvia Earle, filmmaker James Cameron and explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau. An independent group of global leaders, the Ocean Elders are working to be a catalyst in the conservation and protection of the ocean and its biodiversity.

Ghislaine Maxwell founded the TerraMar Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a global community that will advocate for the world's oceans. A recent talk at the UN was the start of her endeavour to create an ocean-specific Sustainable Development Goal, a move she says will prioritise new laws and governance for the sustainability of the oceans and high seas.

One of the current XPRIZE competitions seeks to find out more about the deep sea and turn the tide on ocean acidification. The $2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE is challenging research teams to create pH sensor technology that will "affordably, accurately and efficiently" measure ocean chemistry.

"With the challenges we currently face, environmentally and economically, we cannot leave exploration of our blue planet up to governments alone," says XPRIZE Chairman and CEO, Peter Diamandis. "Instead, quite the opposite: We need to crowdsource innovators from around the globe to take up the charge of discovering the secrets our ocean holds, while working to preserve it."

In my opinion, we are ready to act now, beginning with the development of a scheme for commercial underwater tourism - a concept that's easily within grasp.

My last blog looked at the power of science fiction to drive social change and explained how I hope creating a young adult sci-fi novel will help the next generation to champion ocean conservation and combat climate change.

Hollywood is playing its part - making the link between entertainment and conservation with Conservation International's star-studded video shorts, Nature is Speaking. Harrison Ford takes on the voice of the ocean.

In my young adult sci-fi novel, Moral Order, teenage hero Luca travels not only into space but also into the very depths of the ocean. It's there that he makes his most thrilling discoveries about extreme habitats.

He explores the depths in a Pathfinder - an amphibious submarine with the ability to navigate the oceans and drive ashore. This isn't just science fiction. Recently featured by Trend Hunter, much of the technology behind my concept, including quieter, more efficient green battery-powered motors, is available now.

I'd love nothing more than for commercial underwater tourism to become a reality in our lifetime, showing people the fragile beauty of our space oasis, Planet Earth. I intend to use any profits from Moral Order to develop this initiative further.

If you want to see tourism to the planet's most awe-inspiring underwater sights take off, please pledge your allegiance to the projects mentioned in this blog and download Moral Order today!