If you've ever wondered why anyone spends money searching the stars when 95 per cent of the ocean remains unexplored, or if you've ever coveted a Bond-villain-style underwater hideout, this hypothetical vessel straight out of science fiction is for you.
The SeaOrbiter, which would purportedly be "the only vessel in the world allowing 24-hour exploration on long-term missions of the open sea and the abyss", is the brainchild of French architect and underwater-habitat-builder Jacques Rougerie. Among other things, it would discover new species of sea creature, scour the seabed for lost civilisations and wrecks and presumably become the immediate roosting place for dozens of seabirds.
Inspired by underwater structures of the 70s and 80s, as well as Jules Verne's novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, the SeaOrbiter would, according to its website, function as a mobile home for its 18 to 22 crew, a scientific exploration platform, laboratory and a space simulator for astronauts.
It would be 190 feet tall, run on a mixture of solar and wind power to be almost self-sustaining and provide ample vantage points and facilities to observe life above and below the waves.
A diving drone is included in the designs which would be able to monitor wildlife and seabed remotely at a depth of up to 6000 metres.
The SeaOrbiter would also contain a garage to house submersibles and other equipment and devices to be deployed directly into the sea. It even has a silent mode to avoid disrupting underwater ecosystems.
The project apparently has supporters in high places, with Prince Albert of Monaco and Former NASA administrator Dan Goldin listed as ambassadors, and its development has taken Rougerie the better part of a decade. Yet the Sea Observer is still to be funded.
Following a failed crowd-sourcing attempt earlier this year on French site KissKissBankBank (the campaign raised $466 thousand), Rougerie is currently looking elsewhere for the estimated $48 million it will cost to launch his dream vessel.