Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Habitat refurbishing

As you'll recall, the heaters in Hambase Alpha broke toward the end of it's use. The problem was I had exposed connectors on the outside of the hull that the USB cords plugged into to supply power. Water got into the space inside the connectors and rusted them to the point that power was no longer being delivered (It isn't salt water, so there wasn't a significant short and the heaters worked fine until rust set in)

Since I had a bunch more heater pads laying around (these are cheap) I decided to finally get around to adding a pair of them to Hamlab. I never left a hamster in this habitat for any length of time before because it didn't have heaters. I didn't bother adding any because why have any of them live here when they could enjoy the more spacious, wheel equipped Hambase? But with Hambase undergoing refurbishment, I'd like to have one hab fully equipped to support a hamsternaut comfortably. I plan to buy a new set of hambros soon. This won't hold three or even two, it's just enough space for one of them, for durations of 1-3 days (as there is no wheel) this should at least get me back into the business of underwater hamster shenanigans, and motivate me to fix up Hambase Alpha faster.

What it needs is to have the two little heating pads (like those in Hamlab) removed, and replaced with a Reptitherm 110v heater pad that covers nearly the whole floor. This way, three hams don't have to fight over two small heating pads, each only big enough for one of them. Even when the heaters in Hambase worked, that was a problem.  Sufficient, even heating is an absolute priority for submerged small animal habitats. They aren't big animals, they lose heat easily and have fast metabolisms. They originally lived in deserts, so they need to be kept warm. Even with an aquarium water heater, the temp your fish like is still uncomfortably cold to a small mammal. Anyone working on their own such habs should take note, if it hasn't got a heater, it isn't fit for occupation for longer than a few minutes. If it hasn't got a wheel, a few days is the maximum 'mission duration' I recommend, as they need the exercise+stimulation.


Friday, March 28, 2014

I appear to have popularized the world's strangest hobby.

http://aquahams.blogspot.com/


A long time follower of this blog has begun his own similar project, "Aqua Hams", with promising early results. I'd have some serious reservations about this if he weren't an engineer, and will be advising him as to how to ensure the safety and comfort of any animals he involves (the current prototype is "un-hammed" and is mostly a proof of concept for the time being.)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The inspirations for this project

Although named after the city from Bioshock, the idea of a functional scale model underwater city has been a project that I've thought about off and on for years. The idea for it came from similar stuff I'd already seen.

Hampture pretty much already existed in Earthworm Jim, as the "Down The Tubes" level. It's an underwater city comprised of transparent hamster tubes, habitat enclosures, and hamsters that run around inside:


 The underwater elevator scene from Secret of Nimh was also an influence:


There was also the general "High tech shit built for small creatures to use" seen in stuff like Rescue Rangers, but Down the Tubes and Secret of Nimh were the main ones that led me to seriously consider the practicality of building this kind of shit.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Do any of you live in Oregon and have a body of water on your property?

...And do you want an underwater hamster city in it?

It must be at least 8 feet deep, relatively good visibility (Not muddy water) and have nearby access to grid power and wifi (for webcam streaming). This means within reach of an extension cord, so no more than a few hundred feet maximum. If the wifi won't reach that far I can supply a directional signal booster that should do the trick.

The deal is that if I'm going to build a permanent modular colony, I'll need someplace to put it that is on privately owned land with access to the infrastructure it will need to stay under for good. It will be using some small amount of your electricity and bandwidth. We can discuss compensation but ideally participation in this project and having an underwater hamster city in your back yard is what you get out of it. I would visit monthly or bi-monthly, to dive down to the colony in order to add more hamsters and restock it with food/water.

If you find these conditions agreeable and have a body of water on your property that's suitable, please take pictures of it and post them in the comments along with your zip code. If it looks good, I'll contact you for more specific info.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A breakthrough in connecting multiple habitats!


On the recommendation of a clever follower of the blog, I've researched PVC valves, flanges, fittings and flexible duct hosing with which to safely connect multiple habitats while they're submerged. Before, I had imagined a ridiculously overcomplicated system of wirelessly signaling arduinos to open interior O-ring sealed hatches using servos in order to safely "dock" modules to each other while underwater. Way too expensive and fault prone.

The only alternative to this I could see was to permanently mount every enclosure you wanted to be connected to the same rigid, custom milled metal platform so that when you join them with rigid acrylic tubes, there's no stress on the spots where the tubes pass through the hab walls. But this has to be built as one piece, cannot be expanded afterward and would be tremendously heavy. Given that the whole thing would need to be removed from the water every time you want to clean the litter or resupply food and water, this approach is no more feasible than the last.

So, along comes this guy to suggest a better method which is honestly as big of a breakthrough as when I found the ideal ballast pods/weights combo a while back. It will make it possible and relatively easy to join as many habitat enclosures as I have money for, and to resupply food and clean litter without surfacing all of it.

Basically, each enclosure will have a flange mounted to the wall, and a gate valve mounted to that. They are like little watertight doors I can open and close from the outside, by hand, by turning the little knob. The idea is there's one of these on each of the four walls so you can expand from it. The way you expand is by sinking another habitat next to it, screwing one end of the duct hose onto the gate valve (which will need a threaded screw-on fitting for this) then screw the other end of the hose to the gate valve on the other habitat. Then you use a bottle of compressed air to purge the water from the hose interior through a little, sealable opening in the lowest point of the middle of the hose. Once the water's been blown out in this way you can seal both the bottom opening and the little fitting you blew compressed air in through, open both gate valves, and presto the habitats are connected. If this sounds hard to understand, don't worry, at some point I'll do a step by step illustration. Rest assured it's entirely feasible.



How the food resupply/litter replacement works is that the smallest module size (transparent Otterbox 3500 bolted to a ballast pod consisting of a black otterbox 3000 with two 5lb diving weights inside) is used as a swappable food container, and another identical to it but with only litter inside is the "bathroom". Hamsters typically pick one spot to piss and shit, and you can control where that is by putting some of their dirty litter in the spot you'd like them to do their business. So you do that with one of the small modules. Mostly clean litter with a small amount of waste to clue them in to the fact that you want them to use it as a bathroom. When it gets foul enough, you close the gate valves, detach it, swim to the surface with it, and empty it into the trash (keeping a small amount of the dirty litter.) Then you put fresh litter in there, and add the small amount of dirty litter to it. Now you can swim back down to the colony and re-attach this module to it. Presto! Same goes for the food module. Resupplying food and removing waste is now, finally, feasible in a low tech and easily built method. This means I can finally have very large networks of habitats that permanently stay underwater and never need to be surfaced! Incidentally, a small module of the same size as the food and waste modules would be used to transport additional hamsters down to the colony.

The water bottle replacement scheme is even simpler. The hole in the roof that the metal drinking straw/tube passes through is now covered by, for lack of a better term, a stretchy rubber sphincter. The idea is that you can push the water bottle's tube through it and it forms a seal. But also, when you remove the water bottle, the hole in the rubber is tiny enough that bubbles escape but water doesn't enter. You can just quickly swap the empty water bottle for a filled one without ever risking any amount of water getting in.

For the first time, every conceptual piece is in place for a truly permanent underwater colony of any size I'm able to afford. That was never the case before, not the way I thought I'd have to do it. Now, provided the funding, I can easily supply things people have been eagerly asking for: More living space in the form of multiple enclosures linked by tunnels, true permanence to the point that I never have to surface the habitats (except small food/waste modules) once they're in place.

So, which specific parts and why? I've settled on a two inch diameter standard for the hose, valves and fittings so the hamsters can squeeze by one another (Their bodies are about an inch wide). Otherwise even in very short tubes they will sometimes both try to pass through in opposite directions and fight over who gets to pass, as seen in some of the early videos with Hampture Mk.2.5. They are pretty much the Zax, in rodent form. Anyway here's the parts list I've come up with. Won't let me link directly to the specific parts for the first and third items, so I've included the model numers/names for you to plug into ctrl+f.


600-2370 2inch slip socket by slip socket Gate Valve: http://flexpvc.com/cart/agora.cgi?product=PVC-Valves-Gate

Flexadux R-2 PVC Duct Hose, Clear, 2" ID, 0.020" Wall, 25' Length: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0050IGYKW/ref=biss_dp_t_asn


851-020 2inch socket solid flange: http://flexpvc.com/cart/agora.cgi?cart_id=14688260.31875&product=PVC-Flanges-Solid

What I cannot yet find are screw-on male and female threaded fittings for mating the hose to the gate valves. When I've identified that final component, permanently submerged colonies of any size will finally be within reach. I think that's what this is: http://www.amazonsupply.com/dp/B008I4DV2E/ref=sp_dp_g2c_asin
....But I'll need to buy a sample unit to be sure. If it ever gets to the point where I actually have to money to construct a large permanent colony of the type I've been describing, I'll need to find a fan of the blog who lives in Oregon and has a body of water on their property with at least some portion of it that is 8 feet deep or shallower, with nearby access to grid power. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it, eh? First things first: Gotta build some modular demonstration habitats to show that this method of connecting them while submerged will work.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Last of the three original hamstronauts has passed away.

I'm sorry to report that all three have now perished from old age. I'd hoped to send them on a last adventure aboard Skyhab before then but they didn't hang on long enough. They've still lived pretty incredible lives for hamsters. :')

Once I can get my hands on enough helium to lift Skyhab, I will invest in the next round of ham hams.