Monday, December 19, 2011

The Mk. IV habitat takes shape

As much as I like the Mk.2.6 because it looks cool, it has a few shortcomings. I didn't design LED lights in from the start and the ones I added later were battery powered; There is just a single heating pad and the hamsters fight over it. There's no exercise wheel either, and the weighted base is simply barbell weights bolted to a wooden plank. By designing in all of the desired electrical systems from the start, I can produce a habitat with ample LED lighting and two heated pads, but just a single power cable that penetrates the hull and leads back to the surface. Using a single large enclosure creates enough room for an angled "exercise disc", which serves the same purpose but does not require as much vertical space as a traditional wheel (the same device was used in the Mk.3). However, the most revolutionary addition will be an optional connection for high pressure hose of the type I used for my dive helmet, so that using the same solar/battery powered compressor, I can deploy the Mk.IV habitat to depths of up to 21 feet. This is the limit at which the hamsters will not saturate with nitrogen and therefore will not require decompression. I have many devices at my disposal but a hamster sized decompression chamber is not among them. The deepest deployable depth will be 20 feet, for safe measure. A tremendous depth for hamsters, and probably a record of the kind nobody else will ever see the need to challenge. I don't have access to water that deep, so in all likelihood that particular feature will never be used. But the habitat will be capable of it, should the opportunity arise.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hampture 2.6 repaired, upgraded and back in the water

 After 4 weeks of use, Hampture 2.6 has proven itsself subseaworthy, except for one issue; The hamsters broke their heat pad. I intended to leave them down longer than 4 weeks as it was going so well but a few days ago I noticed they were lethargic and huddled together whereas normally they are very active, moving from room to room, fighting over the chew toy and so on. Sure enough upon surfacing the habitat and checking the heater, they had chewed the wiring such that it was no longer delivering heat. So the hambros got a day or two of shore leave while I rewired the heating pad so that it is flush with the wall and no wiring is exposed for them to chew on. A bittering agent on the pad prevents them from chewing it, although that didn't seem to be an issue anyway as it's a type of plastic they have no interest in. With that finished, I added LED lighting (battery powered until I can wire it into the main power supply) and a new food dish that is transparent so I can monitor their amount of food remaining as easily as their water supply. It's been two days now with the habitat back underwater and everything's looking good for a longer submersion this time; The soil did a better job of handling waste than I expected (to the point of growing plants) so this time I am attempting a 6 week submersion. If their food and water hold out that long (supplies of both are ample) I may attempt two months. By then, the livestream should be set up and you can follow along.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

We have plants!

I had to take Hampture out of the water recently as it became apparent that the heater had broken; the little guys had chewed off the fabric coating of the heating pad and in doing so pulled loose one of the wires. I've removed it and I'm working on rewiring it in such a way that the connection is sturdier. They had been under for 4 weeks anyway and deserved some shore leave. :3
More to the point; Plants! When I opened the habitat I was surprised to see green growth. It seems that even without the LED lights inside (which I still plan to add) there was enough ambient light to sustain grass. The hamsters' waste provided the nutrients and moisture needed, and presto. I am removing the grass this time as it would grow too tall and fill up the habitat, but clover would be just about right. I plan to buy some clover seeds and sprinkle the habitat soil bed with them. It'll accelerate waste decomposition and provide fresh food for the hamsternauts.

I now have a decent PC for livestreaming up and running with procaster. I am also looking to get a nice deep fish tank so that there can be some aquatic life swimming around the habitat exterior. If all goes as planned I can have the 24/7 Hampture livestream operational sometime in early January.

Update: Heater is now fixed. Connections are encased in solidified superglue and the pad's edge is up against the wall so they can't chew on the wire. I defy them to break it now! >:D

Update 2: Habitat is back in the water, everything is working as expected. New video soon, featuring their discovery of the observation towers.