Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Growing plants underwater.

This is a suggestion from the early days of the project that I've given a lot of thought to and decided to pursue. I won't make the colony reliant on plants for air as that would endanger the hamsters. However it will supplement the air, act as a backup food supply and be generally neat as fuck:Why clover? Why not blue green alage? Well, a couple reasons. Clover thrives even in dry conditions, meaning I don't have to water it often. It also thrives with minimal sunlight, meaning even a meager blue/IR LED array will suffice. Last, hamsters love it. It's a treat for them, as there's a sort of sugary nectar inside the leaves and stem they really enjoy. By comparison blue green algae offers efficient production of oxygen (a function we don't need) but cannot be eaten, and is more difficult to successfully cultivate.

So, for our purposes, clover seems ideal. I can simply spray the "crops" with a mister every time I raise the colony to clean out the other parts, and the lights will do the rest. This does mean I'll need to add a USB power cable to the umbilical, however. But given that I'll soon be dremeling out a 1.5 inch hole in each enclosure, and given how perfectly silicone sealant seems to protect against water getting in, I'm no longer skittish about breaching the habitat walls to pass cables inside. Any idea where I can get a 24 foot long USB extension cord?

Monday, October 25, 2010


Welp, eight feet of 1.5 inch diameter transparent acrylic tubing cost me $52, including shipping. I've instructed that it should arrive precut into sixteen 6 inch long sections. Overkill for what I need but there was a minimum on the amount you could order.This means the sky (or budget) is basically the limit on potential future expansions. I can add damn near anything with at least one flat surface, made of transparent material, and watertight or easily made so.

I still need materials to build the platform to which the enclosures will be bolted. I'm thinking erector set. They have large panels govered in a grid of holes with standard sized bolts, perfect for building exactly the size and shape platform I need. I'll position the enclosures, drill holes in their floors, bolt them down and then seal the area where the bolt passes through the enclosure floor with silicone sealant.

I'll be bolting them down after I dremel-out the holes for the tubes, but before I actually add the tube and glue/seal it into place. My reasoning being that if I fix the tube to the two enclosures with glue and sealant beforehand, when I bolt them down, forcing them flat like that might crack the seal where the tube passes through the enclosure wall. Better to add the tubes when they're already bolted down and let the glue dry, then add sealant.

So, a general purpose erector set with plenty of large panels, and a dremel. Can anyone suggest good candidates for either?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hampture Mk. III.

Well, I've gone ahead and purchased the large Lexan drybox that will house the running saucer. Combined with the other similar enclosure I bought ages ago I will soon have three. Rather than let the smaller one go to waste, I'm going to skip straight ahead to a three-enclosure habitat!As you can see the weighted base will leave room for two additional enclosures to be added at a future date. But even with three enclosures, I believe it will be more than large enough to accommodate a second hamster, whom I have decided to name "Hamdrew Ryan".

The final five-enclosure 'city' will house four hamsters total. The additional two will be named "Ratlas" and "Nomtaine" unless someone suggests names I like better.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hamster submarine?

Some of you suggested it a long time ago. I laughed it off as unreasonable. But then I found this:It's a decent RC sub with a watertight enclosure for a camera. But of course, the camera is removable. That means in theory it could be used to record video flybys of the habitat from outside, or with the addition of a compressed air canister (and a weight to counteract it's buoyancy) little Megafucker could go on submarine missions.

Unfortunately it costs about $700. But hey, maybe someday.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The room for the running saucer.

"Running saucer? What's that?" Well, it's this thing:The enclosures I've been looking at have plentiful horizontal space, they're just not very "tall", which made fitting a wheel inside (without mounting the enclosure sideways and having it be permanently sealed) pretty impossible. Until I found this thing. It's what Megafucker has been using for exercise ever since I took him home. It's compact and will fit neatly in one of two enclosures I've found.

The dilemma: Only one is rated for submersion. This one:As you can see it's opaque, which sucks. But it's scuba grade and rated for 100 feet deep. Overkill for what I need. The alternative is this fella:Slightly larger inside (though both will comfortably fit the saucer) but not rated to be submerged. I know this is bullshit to some degree as I have a spare drybox of the same type (but smaller) and it's watertight so far as I can tell from testing it in the pool.

The question is, play it safe and get an opaque enclosure for the exercise room? Or take a risk so that the whole habitat can be transparent?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Expanding Hampture Mk.II

I went looking for clear plastic tubes some time ago for adding rooms to Hampture. This website will sell you them in a wide variety of diameters, 'wall thickness' and length.I'll have to do precise measurements of the habitat but offhand I think a 2 inch diameter tube would give the hamster plenty of room to crawl through (he's perhaps one inch wide) and it wouldn't exceed the dimensions of the habitat wall.

My current plan is to trace the outline of the tube, pressed up against the habitat wall. Then I'll drill a pilot hole, then use bigger drill bits to gradually widen it. From there I'll use a dremel to eat away at the plastic until I've completely cleared out the interior of the traced circle with as much precision as possible. Perhaps leaving a slight "rim" near the back so the tube has something to be mounted against. Then comes the gorilla glue for a firm hold, and the marine sealant around the edge.

I think I can afford the tubes, but I'll need a dremel tool and set of appropriate tips. I'm pretty confident this will work perfectly, and before long we'll have a multi-enclosure habitat.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Announcing Project Earth Rover.

Fear not, Project Hampture will continue as planned, with new rooms being added as funding permits. But I've got many other project ideas I'd like to pursue, and I hope everyone who followed along with Project Hampture will be just as captivated by Project Earth Rover. My hope is that it will more directly involve you guys, as once complete, anyone will be able to use the robot(s).

Post your thoughts in the comments!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Looking to the future.

If there's real demand to see it happen, provided I can raise the money ($3,400) an aquarium like this would make an incredible permanent seafloor colony.It's big enough I could add LED grow lights to cultivate algae and wheatgrass, actively supplying oxygen and processing waste. As the pump I have right now is sufficient to sustain 15 hamsters, A structure like this could easily accommodate six hamsters (one per room) along with an exercise wheel, a filtered water spout, pretty much anything imaginable. This would be the true Hampture.

Until I can find an incredible wealthy, crazy donor however, I'll keep adding rooms to the Mk.II habitat as I can afford to. Someday...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Project Hampture: Lake Mission is complete.

....And ass-blastingly successful. I couldn't have hoped for a better result. See for yourself:

Today's the big day.

I'm heading out to deploy the habitat in a nearby lake soon. While you wait, here's a video of last night's deep water test in the pool. 20 minutes at 8 feet deep, without a hitch!

Keep your eyes on this space. The mission will last an unprecedented five hours if all goes as planned, and it'll be two or three hours to encode and upload the video after that. But wow, it's finally happening right?

UPDATE: Left for the lake at 1:30pm

UPDATE: returned from deployment at 3:15.

UPDATE: Checked on the surface support station twice now. Air's flowing fine, battery is holding steady at 75%.

UPDATE: Retrieved habitat a little after 7pm. Currently preparing the video for upload.

UPDATE: Uploading video, should be done around 9:15pm EST.

Final update: Mission complete. Video uploaded, and included in a new post.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The habitat is finally complete.

The pump arrived today, and after fixing it to the battery pack and hooking up the air hose I switched everything on, and placed a finger over the air return. It works. Air flows readily through the entire system and based on tests conducted yesterday, the habitat is fully watertight. It's done. Everything is in place. All that remains is to spend the day testing it above water, in the bathtub and in the pool. Tomorrow, we launch.

UPDATE: over-water tests concluded, hamster seems fine. Started bathub test about 15 minutes ago:

The sound of rushing water sent him into a panic, but once the faucet was turned off and the tub full, he settled down pretty fast. There he is next to the light. I just checked on him, he's eating, looks pretty mellow. Doublechecked pump, air's circulating, so far so good.

UPDATE: Removed habitat after one hour. Resounding success. No ill effect, he didn't eat, drink or poop much and the battery pack hasn't depleted by even one bar. This bodes well for the possibility of longer term deployments.

UPDATE: Here's video from the interior during the bathtub test.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

While we wait for the pump....

Shit's gonna get all educational up in here and there's nothing you can do to stop it.

Today, October 12, marks the beginning of the latest mission on America's only undersea science base, the Aquarius. 60 feet deep and 4 miles off the coast of Florida it's main purpose is to monitor reef health (as they reflect the health of the ocean at large) although it was also handy for monitoring the spread of the oil spill recently. There's a twitter feed, a blog, and frequent live video events, and (when they get around to fixing them) live webcams. If I've succeeded at getting you interested in the notion of manned science bases on the sea floor, you'll want to follow this mission.

For the next 9 days, from October 12th to 21st at 12pm, you can catch the live daily broadcasts covering mission progress at this link.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Leaps and bounds.

I made a ton of progress today. Powerdrill? Purchased. Holes? drilled. Tubes? Glued and sealed in place. Heating pad? Soaked in bitter anti-chewing agent (meant for cats and dogs, but works fine on hamsters according to the clerk), then sealed in plastic wrap (so it won't spread a bad odor when activated (but he'll definitely be motivated to stop chewing if he punctures it) I've replaced the normal kitty litter with a fine grain corn-based litter. No 'dust' and it's not dangerous if he ingests some (though he seems to have no interest in it). I've also added an applewood chewing 'log' to satisfy his need to gnaw stuff, and coated every sensitive cable and electronics thingie inside the habitat with the bittering fluid. I saw the hamster try to chew a cable for a split second, then immediately stop and start pawing at his tongue. He hasn't touched it since. Works as advertised.

Here's little Mega-Fucker Supreme posing for a quick photo op (I opened it immediately afterward). Seems to be happily nomming the mixture of sunflower seeds, dried corn kernels and other goodies. He spent a minute or two probing the enclosure for weaknesses then seemed to resign himself to rolling around in the litter and trying to burrow into his food. :3

For housing little Megafucker between missions, I drilled some air holes in the old tuppermaid container that was going to be the bouy way back when and added food/water dishes, plus litter and more chew toys. It also has a little running "saucer" (like a wheel but dish shaped and at an angle) inside that I'm certain will fit in the largest transparent enclosure offered by Lexan (which I can permanently seal with the marine silicone glue to be doubly sure it's watertight at any depth. I would need a little extra money for that enclosure however.) The best news is I'm sure I can cut the holes needed for the tube walkways; this plastic doesn't seem prone to crack, even a little bit. When drilling the holes I found it remarkable how clean they wound up; If one of you felt like gifting me a dremel, I'm certain could easily widen them according to a marker-drawn outline on the wall. Hampture City is looking more viable by the day!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The heater arrives!

Here's the habitat in it's present form, nearly ready for use:The heating element is that red patch on the wall. I'm thinking it should be wall mounted for a few reasons: First, so the hamster has a choice whether to be in contact with it or not. It's very warm to the touch (not uncomfortably so) and heat transfers very well through the feet; if I put it on the floor the hamster wouldn't have much choice but to walk on it. Also, although (as you can see) I've laid down a layer of kitty litter to handle waste, I'm worried urine might short it out. I could always seal it up with tape so it's moisture proof I guess. Thoughts on placement of the pad are welcome as I really haven't decided yet.

In the picture I'm testing how long it'll run on a 1500mah 5v battery. Still goin' strong after 2 hours, with only 40% of the energy used up. The battery that I'm actually using will be much smaller but roughly the same capacity, so we're looking at about 5 hours of heat. And the habitat should stay warm for a long while afterwards as this type of plastic is an excellent thermal insulator. I'm worried about keeping it cool enough actually, although the constant passage of air through the chamber should have a moderating effect, and by placing the pad on the wall I empower the hamster to regulate his own temperature by getting closer to or further from it.

In the third habitat, if this one is a success (and that appears certain) I'd like to have a power cable as part of the umbilical, and solar panels to keep the air pump, lights and heating pad running indefinitely.

Friday, October 8, 2010

We're on the home stretch.

Here's the habitat in it's current incarnation, along with everything related to it that I have so far.This is really happening. My boner tingles with excitement. I just got a donation for the drill, and the deep water pump/heated gloves/battery pack are in the mail. Once I've drilled the holes, affixed the air tubes, sealed it with the marine silicone sealant (pictured) and installed the heater, we are go for Hampture deployment. (See the little stuffed mouse inside? That's roughly the size of an adult dwarf hamster, it's included to give a sense of scale.)

I've downloaded a TXT file of Atlas Shrugged and even at the smallest readable font, when printed on tiny 3*5"" pages (several per sheet of paper) it comes out to over 200 goddamn pages. I might omit that bizarre rape scene with Dagny in the train tunnel because while I think a hamster can handle living underwater, reading that shit might psychologically scar him.

By the way, after I've completed a series of animal habitats, I think something like this would be the ideal next project;

They make each one to spec for customers. Normally they have to be installed while you're putting in a pool as they use anchors at the bottom. But as seen in the video they can also be weighed down. A sufficiently large dome of this type, with a raised floor suspended above water level (leaving room to climb in and out) plus ballast for sinking it would make an affordable, portable one-man habitat. Thoughts?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The battery pack arrives!

Man, this thing is a beast! Still, it's lighter than I expected, and it will fit in my backpack which means it won't be as difficult to get it to the lake as I'd feared.It takes 23 hours to fully charge it, and kept my laptop running for nearly 3 hours. Hey, for lead acid batteries that's pretty good, and laptops are energy hungry.

I now have almost everything I need. Still need about $30 for a power drill (I have the correct diameter drill bit though!) and the marine sealant (coming in the mail). Then I can drill the holes, seal the tube ends into them, fasten the enclosure to a weight, and test the entire apparatus in a nearby public pool. It's getting colder, few are using it, I should be able to get some time to myself. But wow, will I have some explaining to do if anyone catches me.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The difference in difficulty between imagining something and actually doing it is pretty large, guys.

I've received a lot of emails, to the effect that a single small enclosure is not impressive enough. These emails usually express the view that this project is unbelievably simple and easy, and that the current design is settling for mediocrity. Most demand some kind of multi-enclosure "City", with hamster tubes connecting them. Other demands include an algae colony for replenishing the air (without need of a surface pump) a small aquaculture pod to supply the hamster with plants to eat, waterproofed turbines outside to generate tidal power, a hamster wheel with electrical generator to keep the batteries charged, hamster mini-subs so they can leave the colony and explore, and so far my attempts to suggest that these are all far too elaborate for a one-man project scheduled to take no more than a month or two have been met with scorn, and the opinion that perhaps I'm too stupid for this project, that they "could do a way better job" if they "felt like it".

The truth is that lots of things seem simple and easy until you actually try to do them. As I found out with the Mk. I habitat, it's harder than it seems in one's imagination to put something underwater, replenish it's air, and keep water out. This has been a learning process for me; what initially seemed like a pretty basic project has required me to do everything from calculating the lung volume and breathing rate of an adult dwarf hamster to working out whether the selected pump would replenish air fast enough, given it's cfm rating and the increase in water pressure at 8 feet.

I've also learned that water doesn't stay out of an enclosure just because you need it to, or because it seems like it will in your head as you study a potential enclosure. A lot goes into making a container watertight, and not just any will do. Not many companies sell watertight containers; many claim to but they are intended only for keeping clothing and documents dry in humid climes, not for being submerged, and many that claim they are safe to submerge instruct you never to submerge them below three feet. In the subset of available enclosures that are truly watertight and that will withstand pressure at useful depths, most are not transparent. If i had chosen an opaque enclosure it would probably have provoked an outcry. What's the point of putting it underwater, after all, if the interior camera (and hamster) cannot see the 'world' outside? But among the subset of watertight containers that are transparent, none are much larger than a shoebox. Anything bigger than that is typically briefcase sized, opaqe, intended for marine biologists carrying electronic equipment, and hundreds of dollars.

I did explain this to many of the critics who then accused me of being lazy for relying on ready-made enclosures. They asked why I don't simply build my own. Well, because I do not have infinite funding, a 3D printer, or access to a machine shop. If I had these things, I probably would.

However, I don't want to let any of you down. I can explain the difficulties involved in this project until I'm out of breath but at the end of the day, I want to delight rather than disappoint, which means I need to complicate the project in order to satisfy those of you who want to see something more elaborate than what I had planned. To that end, I have purchased a second enclosure;
This one is 7.7"x3.5"x7.4". It's wider than the one I have and not quite as tall, but it should add some much appreciated extra space, possibly for a second hamster.

I plan to use the power drill I'm still waiting on donations for to drill a "pilot hole" in the wall of both boxes, after having traced the rim of the hamster tube in black marker on each wall as a guide. I'll then widen the hole gradually using a dremel tool (which I also don't have yet) until the hole on the wall of each enclosure is precisely the right size for the hamster tube. I'll then use the 3M Marine Grade Silicone Sealant to seal the rims, and the air holes in the tube.

It will be less structurally sound than a single contiguous enclosure but evidently one enclosure isn't enough, so here we are. My main concern is how I'll weigh this assemblage down without stressing the spots where the hamster tube connects with the wall of each enclosure. I'll need some kind of platform with lots of holes in it so that I can fasten the enclosures tightly to it with wire, and then attach weights evenly to the bottom of the platform:

So as to avoid making any of you wait, I'll be sinking the single-enclosure habitat sometime in November for repeated "missions". That way if something goes wrong when building the two-enclosure habitat (like the plastic cracks) all will not have been in vain.This will be interesting. It's not what I signed up for, but you've gotta give the people what they want.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Enclosure arrives!

And having tested it in the bathtub, it's watertight as all hell. After checking about fifty times to make sure I didn't get my cock in the shot, I uploaded this video to simulate what it will be like from the hamster's point of view:

I'm holding it down by the edges to demonstrate that I don't have to hold the lid or anything, it really is watertight as advertised, and rated for 100 feet deep. As I'll only be submerging it 8 feet (perhaps 7 to be safe?) I have complete confidence in this thing.

Next up I'll need a power drill, so I can drill some holes for the aquarium air hoses. I'm considering two adjacent holes, one where I insert the tube till it touches the other end of the enclosure and another for a tube that barely pokes in; that way the air will have to traverse the entire interior as it's used, and the air delivery/return hoses will be close enough together where they exit the enclosure that I can wrap them around each other/tape them together into a single umbilical.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Undersea attractions; past, present and future

First we'll visit Israel, where Red Sea tourism in the 90's gave rise to a number of underwater attractions, including the Red Sea Star undersea restaurant:As well as this submerged observatory in a harbor, where tourists can watch ships arriving and departing as well as admire the reef fish:
This spa in the Maldives is, like the other attractions listed so far, in fairly shallow water and exposed at all times to the surface atmosphere via a stairwell:The Maldives seems to be a popular location for such attractions as it's also home to the Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, disappointingly shallow but with an enormous hemicylindrical acrylic enclosure:The upcoming Poseidon Undersea Resort will, by contrast, be situated 40 feet or so below the surface, nearly as far as some research habitats:If you're richer than the king of popes, the same company responsible for the Poseidon Resort is also selling extras of that disc-shaped pod at either end of the resort as a standalone undersea home: