Traveling to Underwater Cities

If you lived in a dome underwater, how would you travel to other cities? In the early twenty-first century, the principle means of long-distance travel is airliners. Even a hundred years from now, it will still be a popular way to reach cities in the inland parts of country. Not long ago, people used surface ships called oceanliners to cross the oceans. When a huge portion of the population lives under the surface of the water, one of the best options to travel between cities will certainly be the Underliner—a commercial passenger submarine.

In my upcoming book UNDERCURRENT, my characters make use of the Underliner as a means of getting back home to the domed city of Aquataine after an emergency prompts an evacuation of around ten thousand people to the surface. The evacuation craft had been sitting idle for over 70 years and not all of them can be used to make the return trip, so a more reliable means of transport is required to get those people back safely.

The Underliner is about the size of today’s Boeing 777, without the wings of course. Imagine the gleaming white ship, highlighted in aqua-colored insignia.  You are greeted by perky, sparkling attendants in aqua uniforms with creases so sharp you might cut yourself. Inside, two aisles run the length of the ship with seating along both the port and starboard sides as well as down the center.

Artist’s rendering of a Zyklon-Class luxury submersible. Built at the Norfolk yards, the Zyklon is capable of auto-navigation within two meters at a speed of 40 knots.

But in addition to the portholes, the ceiling is full of windows too. It’s a concession to those with subaqueous neurosis—or underwater syndrome—whose dose of Nirvanum might not be enough to keep them calm, feeling as if they’re being swallowed by the ship and the sea. But then again, it’s also unsettling for any of the passengers once the water starts splashing over the windows blocking out the sunlight as they dive.

Possibly even more unsettling than that is the barrage of ads from the Dock Mall shopping service. Once seated, weight sensors trigger the seat back monitors to activate, taking cues from the passenger’s own Wrist-Comm device as to their interests and hobbies hoping to score a sale. For some reason, the Personal Flotation Suit remains one of the most queried items.

Passengers can also sync their Wrist-Comms to the monitors, which will project a video keyboard onto the tray for easier access. That’s also useful for ordering a drink from the lounge at the back of the passenger cabin. If they just want to rest, there is a canopy built into the seat back that is easily pulled out over their head to provide a little bit of darkness and privacy.

Once submerged, subs are guided along the underwater shipping lanes by SONAR beacons. Long before, submarines beamed SONAR (Sound Navigation and Ranging) to navigate underwater. With today’s increased commercial and passenger submarine traffic, it’s far more efficient to place SONAR along established routes, and send those signals directly to the ship’s navigation systems.  

On approach to the dome, the subs enter a deep channel that leads beneath the dome’s base. Automated systems sync with the sub’s own guidance systems to lead the sub into a lock similar to a canal lock. A huge water-tight door closes behind the sub, relieving the extreme water pressure from the open sea at a depth of a hundred and fifty meters. Another door in opens in front, and the sub gains access to the underwater harbor where it can now surface inside the passenger terminal.

Representation of an underwater submarine terminal that could be used for passenger subs as well as materiel handling. Though this photograph does resemble the underwater lair of Karl Stromberg from “The Spy Who Loved Me,” this is actually the Indian Nuclear Submarine base in Kolkata, India.

As the sub is guided into the docking station, gangways attach magnetically to each hatch so passengers can disembark. The baggage system matches the RFID chip placed on each passenger’s bag to their Wrist-Comm as they exit the sub, placing the bags on the conveyor system to synchronize them for easy retrieval as they leave the terminal. Within the terminal, passengers can board the local trams within Aquataine’s Central Dome, or use the Inter-Dome Transport (IDT) monorail system to travel to one of the city’s connected smaller domes.

There is also a commercial side of the terminal to accommodate deliveries of food, general merchandise, and other supplies. Aquataine also has facilities for the few privately owned submersible yachts of the elite. I figure private subs are probably going to be about as commonplace as private yachts or planes today.  Gotta get around somehow, right?

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