Sunday, December 30, 2012

Space Hams progress

Just a heads up, I am putting most of my effort lately into finally building the Sky Station, documented over on the Space Hams blog. Significant progress so far, hope to have it functional and airborne when the weather warms up.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Midwater habitat concept

Nothing says a habitat must be on the absolute bottom of a body of water. In fact, because air is so buoyant, the real challenge is keeping them on the bottom. Any air filled structure when submerged behaves very much like a balloon. So, supposing you want your hab to 'hover' at a precise depth in a much deeper lake or part of the ocean. It can be carefully weighted to neutral buoyancy and then fitted with computers that micro manage a smaller ballast tank to keep it at the desired depth, or much more simply, you can just hold it down with a tether. 

This one's not intended for animals, much too small. You'll notice it's partially flooded, this was to keep it submerged; the weight is not as yet sufficient. I'm going to either grow plants in it (short grass probably) or carve a very large circular moon pool in the bottom and use it as an RC submarine hangar. The little radio controlled Graupner microsub I showed off in earlier videos would then have someplace underwater that it can surface and 'park'. What might be neat in the future is to fit it with the electronics from one of those new short range wireless charging pads for cell phones, such that the little sub can charge in its undersea garage, and never have to surface again.

Incidentally, this "tethered balloon" habitat concept borrows from an actual undersea lab of very similar design, Jacques Rougerie's "Galathee" which could, by cable and winch, raise and lower itself like an elevator. This allowed it to also serve as a decompression chamber, or to observe specific levels of the water column.

Anyways still needs some additional weight, and really nothing's set in stone yet. Plants? RC sub garage? Please offer opinions in the comments. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Note on Sea Orbiter

The most valuable function of the currently under construction Sea Orbiter is, imo, the ability to deploy and recover a deep diving submersible from 50 feet below the water line. The lowest deck is an ambient pressure habitat from which divers, and the sub, can freely come and go. This eliminates the most common cause of cancelled sub missions, violent surface weather. It also means, potentially, that the Sea Orbiter will be able to transfer crew and samples between various next generation ambient pressure underwater labs around the world. The submersible could be piloted from Sea Orbiter's lowest deck to the moon pool module of the habitat and back again, as well as accepting divers from the habitat for transport to other similar seafloor labs, because they can be kept under pressure for the entire trip. This evades the need for decompression and provides a link between what would otherwise be isolated undersea research sites. In that sense, think of it as the Starship Enterprise, deploying a shuttlecraft to carry crew and cargo between outposts in space. 

Hydronaut underwater research station

The ESA, Europe's equivalent of NASA, is constructing an underwater lab for training astronauts and conducting medical/marine bio research. Looks small from the outside, but the cross section reveals that it's three or four times the interior volume of Aquarius, probably the same volume as Conshelf 3 or Tektite. This is, for an undersea research enthusiast, a godsend. Between the confirmation that Poseidon Undersea Resort is moving forward, construction of the Sea Orbiter and now THIS, it's shaping up to be an exciting era for aquanauts. Some concept renders, a video tour, and under-construction photos below. As you'll notice it's designed to closely resemble a habitat lander, of the sort NASA intends to land on the Moon or Mars. It even has a down facing double door airlock to better simulate EVAs. I am particularly excited that it has a panoramic cupola identical to the one on the ISS. Should make for some stunning photo ops/footage.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hamsub MkII?

This RC sub + waterproof camera gives me some ideas. If I could get something like this and attach the life support capsule from Hamsub Mk I. plus a can of compressed air.....

All you'd need then is a base on the lake bottom for the sub to surface inside of.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mystery seed sprouts underwater

So, apparently a seed was dropped into the aquarium some time ago and it took root in the gravel. What you're seeing here is a sunflower (or some other plant whose seed is included in small animal food) growing underwater. I had no idea this could happen.

What now? Transplant it into soil? Leave it be and see how much it grows? Plant additional seeds of different types next to it? Seems like this calls for experimentation.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Diving rats

This is the same behavior I observed ages ago, when I tried out a prototype habitat with a moon pool; My intention was to give the hambros a never ending source of water. What I didn't anticipate is that being surrounded by water without coming to harm for so much time desensitized them to it somehow, eliminating their natural instinctive fear of drowning. The first time one of them dove out of the moon pool and swam around the bottom of the tank (probably disoriented) I just about had a heart attack. Before I could scoop him out he returned to the moon pool and climbed back inside.

I eliminated the moonpool from future habitats mainly for my own comfort; Even having seen rodents competently swimming around in (what is for them) deep water, then returning to the habitat, I don't think I could ever be convinced that they'd always be able to find their way back in. It didn't seem natural, or reliably safe, and having a big open pool inside the habitat made it impossible to keep humidity down. Aside from their apparent willingness to take a dip, hamsters like to be dry. So, no more moon pools.

These rats, by comparison, obviously have a better idea of what they're doing. This most likely owes to their vastly better eyesight. I have much more confidence in a rat's ability to make (relatively) intelligent decisions concerning when to dive outside the habitat, and how to get back inside. Building a special, moonpool accessible habitat just for rats might be a fun experiment. It looks like I would never have to surface it; Feeding them would be as simple as dropping vegetables (like the pea in the video) to the bottom of the tank, near the habitat. The idea of competent rodent aquanauts who understand how to return to/leave their own pressurized underwater living space is pretty neat in a Secret of Nimh way. At that point it seems feasible to put a much larger habitat in an outdoor pond or lake, running a power cord from the air compressor to the grid, and let the rats come and go as they please.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Looks like someone else is monetizing Hampture.

Wonder who he got to put it into production. Everyone I contacted turned me down.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Celebrating six months of aqua hams

As winter is closing in and the aquarium is in an outdoor shed, I've brought the hambros to the surface to live in their large surface cage until it becomes warm enough to resubmerge them.

I then realized that they first began living fulltime underwater (save for brief weekly surface breaks during the cleaning and resupply of the habitat) sometime around mid April. That's a full six months. I'd call Guiness, but they'd have me committed.

Friday, September 28, 2012

What now?

In the last post I laid out some possible future paths this project could take. To go any bigger/more ambitious will take more money than I have.

On the other hand I seem to have arrived at an essentially perfect design with Hambase Alpha. It's been flawlessly reliable, safe, with exactly enough space for all the necessities and some unnecessary comforts. It's balanced neatly between the interior volume/elbow room needs of the hamsters, and the limits on how much weight is practical/comfortable to pick up and move around out of the water.

There are very minor improvements I could make in a revised version: I've found a single power cable that can supply both heating pads, rather than using two. And there's an unnecessary exhaust port in the side which I discovered only created a second unsightly bubble trail; Bleeding air through the seal is totally sufficient, any excess just intensifies the bubble trail. So in a few small ways it can be simplified, for less construction effort, fewer hull penetrations and a single power cord instead of two. But the enclosure, weights, ballast pods, heaters, everything else is just about ideal.

I wonder what I am accomplishing, then, by keeping it underwater. It could stay down there for years. For the entire lifespan of the hamsters. I have total confidence in the design. I could go bigger, with more rooms, but they likely wouldn't use them, it would make it much heavier, I'd still have to surface it for cleaning, etc. The size of habitat I'd need if I were going to leave it permanently underwater is cost prohibitive. So I'm at this point of stalemate, design wise, where I've made it as good as possible within given cost and weight constraints.

In light of this I've decided to start keeping the hamsters on the surface in a much larger enclosure for extended periods. I've proven the design concepts I wanted to. There's no practical need for them to stay down there all the time until I can afford to build something larger that pushes the envelope in some way. What I'd really like to build is the large acrylic dome habitat which I can partially surface inside of. That is, I believe, the size necessary for permanent emplacement, as it allows me to get inside of it myself to do things like scooping/replacing litter, resupplying food, etc. without the risks inherent in any sort of motorized docking ring. The problem is, this final and largest of habitats would cost a great deal of money. It would have legitimate scientific value, permitting the study of multigenerational effects on mammals of living out their entire lives, reproducing, growing up, everything, while relatively deep underwater (25 feet) and in a pressurized environment. But to make this happen I'd need funding, and I have a hard time imagining anyone with a few grand to throw away wanting to invest in a project like this.

So until I have cash to blow on a larger habitat, the hamsters will be spending only some of their time underwater. Probably one week in, one week out, alternating. And the Ustream will be offline until my PC is fixed, as I am down to my laptop now, which is what I was using for the stream.

P.S. Although the dome habitat is what's required to do any actual worthwhile studies of underwater lifecycles, one thing I have demonstrated with the project so far and that I'm pleased with is how simple the principles involved in shallow water ambient pressure habitats are, and by extension, how achievable low-tech underwater living is for human beings, should we ever want to do such a thing.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Revised Mark V design, w/cost list

I figure if I'm going all out, I should add another room up top. This way it has horizontal and vertical tunnels. I *believe* (not sure) that the number of ballast pods shown will be sufficient to restrain the added volume of air, I'll have to run the numbers again to be sure. If not I can always add another ballast pod. Here's the cost list, allowing for a 3 or 4 enclosure final build, and either 4 or 5 ballast pods depending how many are ultimately needed. It's possible to get slightly lower prices for some items but not from trustworthy sites. Total dry weight for the 4 module version is around 53lbs.

(All prices include shipping)

Otterbox 9000 x 4-5 = $61-$74

Lexan Drybox X-Large x 1 = $49

Otterbox 3500 x 2-3 = $41-$57

Acrylic tubes x 1 (cut in 3 inch lengths) = $17

5lb Lead block weights x 8-10 = $224-$280

Nuts and bolts: $3

Custom metal plate: $???

So, metal plate aside the final pricerange is $395-$480. That is to say $395 for the original Mark V design with only two additional rooms, or $480 for the revised version seen above with 3 additional rooms. Any parts not accounted for in the price list are items I already have on hand. The big question mark here is how much a custom milled steel plate with a waterproof coating is going to cost.

Bonus madness you never asked for:

To put things in perspective, the conceptual monstrosity below (aka Hampture Ultimate) would cost around $2,000 assuming the component prices listed above. I sometimes do "what if" designs like these which assume no limits to funding and access to a private pond or swimming pool. At a dry weight of 350lbs I'd need either 3 strong friends (each capable of lifting 87lbs for moderate durations) with scuba gear to help deploy it, or a small crane. Like it says, this would be a permanent city, not intended to be surfaced.

And so long as we're going nuts, let's give 110%. Hamlantis is a permanent underwater world for hamsterkind inside of an 8 foot diameter transparent acrylic dome mounted to a round metal 'dish' with a hole in the center where a human diver can surface to manually transport food, water and additional hamsternauts to this awe insiring waste of money. I cannot even begin to calculate how much this would cost although I do know that a 5.75 foot diameter dome runs $617. I couldn't find the place I inquired with before that sold 8 foot diameter domes but sufficed to say the prices were banaynay. Worse yet, the total amount of lead ballast weights needed to keep this retard's fantasy from floating is 1.1 tons. This would require a boat trailer, removable floats and several friends with scuba gear to deploy in a lake.

This would be large enough to comfortably accommodate one cat, and (uncomfortably) one human being provided he lay on his side. With a dually redundant set of electric automotive air compressors, this shining monument to obscene first world decadence could be deployed a full 25 feet deep, with the "moon pool" (open floor hatch) at 21 feet, the limit before which saturation doesn't occur, and decompression will never become necessary regardless of how long you stay there. And staying there would be a foregone conclusion, due in part to the immense difficulty of ever removing it from the lakebed, and also because there would never be any need to. While not strictly self sufficient ( I experimented with plants and ran into mold problems) it could be supplied with dry food and water sufficient to last a year. With so much space and their instinct to shit in just one specific spot, waste buildup wouldn't become a concern for months. And cleaning up that spot, or delivering more food/water, or adding/removing hamsters (I estimate this thing could sustain at least 100) would be as simple as swimming down there with scuba goggles and a micro scuba bottle (aka Spare Air 3.0cf) and a watertight case holding whatever I'm transferring to/from the dome. And yes, that's a heat lamp suspended at the end of that boom. It's their miniature artificial sun.

This could be done. It is absolutely possible. SHOULD it be done? Under no plausible circumstance. But if anyone out there is rich and has a burning need to witness Hamlantis or Hampture Ultimate brought to appalling, ill-advised fruition, I'll do it. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hampture Mark V: If you fund it, I will build it.

Well, I know I said I was done with this project. But no matter how I reassure viewers that the existing habitat is not constraining (on account of the exercise wheel) the most popular demand seems to be "add more rooms connected by tunnels!"

The difficulty of doing this with the existing habitats is that they are separate and individually weighted. So if I connected them with rigid tubes, then tried to pick all of them up, they would shift relative to one another and crack the glue/plastic where the tubes pass through the habitat walls.

My solution to this is a partial return to the Mark 3 approach: One gigantic, single structure. To prevent stress on the tubes, all three enclosures are mounted rigidly to a metal platform that I'd need custom cut/milled for this purpose, with holes in the correct places for the screws, and some type of coating to prevent corrosion. The four ballast pods are attached to the bottom, as shown, for a total of eight 5 pound lead block weights, totaling 40 pounds. You can begin to see why I resist the pressure to build bigger and bigger habitats. This is about the absolute practical limit for a habitat intended for use in a fish tank. The Mark 3 was even heavier.

Anyway, this would be amazing to build and to witness in operation, but it's purely optional. The Mark IV (Hambase Alpha) is entirely sufficient in size for three hamsters, with submersions of one week at a time. This larger habitat would be tremendous overkill, and sufficient for deployments of many months at a time due to the dedicated rooms for food storage, and "waste", which would solve the only design concerns that limit the current model. You could leave the Mark V underwater pretty much as long as the food and water held out with no hygenic concerns and certainly none for the space available as it would at this point be far beyond what the animals actually need.

I will only build this if you want it, and I can only afford the parts if you fund it. This project would cost between $300 and $500 dollars in total. So far donations have been $5 here and there, with a very few generous $10 or $20 donations, and a single surprising $100 donation (many thanks, you know who you are). While deeply appreciated, this rate of donation won't support the construction of the Mark V. I have no way to rally all of you towards this funding goal as Kickstarter refuses to approve this project, so it all more or less hinges on whether any one specific reader decides to foot the entire bill, or most of it. If one of you does this, I can guarantee that the Mark V will get built, as proven by the long line of earlier habitats completed so far. It's all down to how badly you guys want to see a colony of this scale.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bioshock Guin-finite

One of you recently brought my attention to this amusing comic tribute to Hampture by the guys over at Nerd Rage comics. I like how it was a hilarious crazy punchline for them, yet at the same time something I'm actually planning to build, probably unbeknownst to them. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hampture videogame?

I imagine it being exactly like Sub Culture, the 1997 game from Criterion Studios, with the sole addition of being able to build/expand your own colony with the money you accumulate.

Not too long ago I was making 3d models for a Farmville style game set underwater. My programmer just kind of stopped working on his side of it, so that never went anywhere. If I could get some committed programming talent who have experience working with Unity, a Hampture game could realistically happen.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mankind's ongoing conquest of the blue frontier

First off, Sea Orbiter has been fully funded and is partway through construction as we speak. It is scheduled to be launched in 2013. Sea Orbiter is a semi-submersible ocean going craft, most of which is underwater living/observation/laboratory space. The bottom two decks are pressurized to outside levels and accessible from the decks above it by airlock. This allows divers to freely enter and exit 60 feet down through a moon pool. The pressurized deck also includes a submersible hangar, such that a deep diving sub can be deployed regardless of choppy surface conditions.

This is pretty much the Sea Quest DSV, except partially above water. It'll travel the oceans and give scientists the same saturation diving capability as Aquarius, but mobile.

 Meanwhile, China's nationalized deep sea mining outfit is constructing a 33 man deep sea mining station. This will be only the second 1atm underwater habitat in history, the first to be nuclear powered, the first to house so many people simultaneously, and the second to be capable of deploying submersibles (the first was Conshelf 2).

(Not an actual artist's impression, but consistent with the description as a "sea station" that does not rest on the ocean floor but rather hovers partway down.)

 Next up, Brazil's oil giant Petrobarras is looking to revolutionize deep water drilling and avoid both the potential for a BP style spill and the ongoing wear and tear on floating oil rigs that are exposed to the weather by designing "underwater cities", mostly automated ocean floor oil rigs that robotically manage the process of drilling, and tending to the well itself in the event of a leak. As this will be in very deep water, the only habitable spaces will presumably be very small, spherical, and permit engineer access in the event of some malfunction that requires direct access.

Other companies share these plans, and have already begun constructing seafloor rigs in the Arctic to avoid the severe storms on the surface:

 Other deep sea mining initiatives, some nationalized and some private, continue development with Nautilus Minerals already on site in Papau New Guinea preparing to begin mineral extraction.

 Kampachi Farms has acquired Kona Blue and will be expanding their undersea farming operation to include numerous new geodesic enclosures:

Applying the farming techniques used on land to the ocean will spare it from trawling and other destructive practices while greatly multiplying it's food output. It's also potentially a great application for ambient pressure shallow water habitats as worker housing.

The recent explosion in high profile undersea projects is completely consistent with my expectations. As we find ourselves increasingly in need of resources that are running low on land we'll inevitably turn to the seafloor, a landmass larger than all continents combined, with untouched preindustrial densities of precious metals and potential to feed the world through aquaculture. Space is unquestionably our future, but it looks like the ocean is our present. And it will have to be; Only by moving into the ocean and becoming inhabitants of it will we gain a direct stake in it's preservation. The NIMBY principle, as applied to oceanic conservation, may be what saves our seas.

Monday, July 16, 2012

New habitats, fish, coral and plants

I've got some new habitat designs, built to the third gen standard like Hamlab Alpha and the aquabubble so they can be used permanently in the aquarium without issue. I'm also planning to add fish, coral and plants soon. However all of these things cost money and I'm pretty broke at the moment. It'll happen, eventually, with or without help but it'd happen a lot faster if some of you could kick a few bucks my way.

[ Edit: Thank you for the $20 donation! I've just gone out and purchased rocks, plants and a suckerfish to help keep the algae under control, and they are all added, go check out the Ustream channel!. It won't, however, cover any additional fish. Those will have to wait.]

[Edit: There's been a $25 donation. I'll use this to buy more fish. Any specific kinds you'd like to see?]

Thursday, July 12, 2012

This is what overgrowth looks like.

I got some questions by email that were like "How could plants get so out of control that you need to remove a habitat for maintenance?" Well, like this. It turns out moist, higher pressure air is a really good growth environment.

It's a jungle in there. This bodes well for undersea agriculture.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

God damnit, Kickstarter.

I'm becoming genuinely rumpflustered over this. If you'll recall they rejected my application to kickstart Hampture as a consumer product, as well as a cheaper recreational diving helmet for use in lakes/pools.

Apparently a year ago, a Kickstarter page....for a board game....succeeded hugely and the creator pocketed $7,840 raised by it. And didn't release the game. Her explanation?

  "Ever since about December, I've been harassed by a voice that is claiming to be the sun, and its been attacking me and harassing me almost every hour of the day. Voice says: "The sun doesn't want you to publish Katalyka, because it wants to be almost exactly LIKE Katalyka, but it keep it all a secret. If you publish your game, it is going to let people in on too many secrets." (paraphrasing)" "The question comes up... does the Earth actually NEED such a huge electromagnetic field? I know that question might scare people who have not started to really process what it means to be in a living Universe... but everything that we consider "bad effects of radiation" are really only "opinions" of those materials... So if we do get our planet to align its mindset with the Sun, then there may actually be no reason at all to worry about "radiation" and it simply becomes more energy that we can interact with."

I just...I dunno if I can figure out how not to be mad about this. All I want is #1. Hampture as a hobby product anyone can buy, and #2. To bring the price for recreational diving helmets down from $5,000 to under $500 so more people can try it out.

 But no, they reject that and instead approve schizophrenics who don't release board games because the sun is concerned that playing said board game will reveal forbidden secrets to the public.

 If you need me, I'll be in my anger dome.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

UStream channel online (for now)

Still trying things out, can't guarantee it'll be up 24/7. Mainly, it's running on my nice laptop right now and must at some point be switched over to my shitty laptop once I get that working again. Fish and plants are on the way, as donations permit.
Free live streaming by Ustream Channel link here. EDIT: Brief downtime of perhaps 3 or 4 hours today (July 8th) need my laptop for something else.

Three months of underwater hamstery.

They're enjoying an on-land vacation atm, but soon it's back in the water; thanks to a recent donation I've got a water filter now, so the tank is ready for fish, and I've received an old laptop for use as a livestream server, meaning I'll soon be able to (at long last) set up that 24/7 live feed.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Coming up on three months submerged.

...At which point I'll probably surface them and let them live on land for a while. I need to learn how to keep an aquarium ecosystem in preparation for adding fish, besides which, the habitat's essentially perfect. I haven't yet built another because Hambase Alpha is pretty much the best design I can come up with. It'd just be a copy of it. When I get the aquarium properly set up I'll probably only deploy Hambase Alpha, as the camera's gonna be focused on that anyway so there's no point to having more habitats cluttering up the aquarium, I'd rather make room for the fish. Still waiting on donations for aquarium plants, a water filter and a catfish to eat the algae.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Demonstrating the Aquabubble

The Aquasphere, being modular, can be reassembled either as a spherical unit with two domes, or as an igloo shaped micro habitat with a flat 'floor' and three legs that support it up off the bottom. It can be operated either in ambient pressure mode, or (with a second air hose carrying exhaust back to the surface) as a true 1atm hab, with internal pressure identical to the surface. In sphere mode it's intended to be supplied air from a small scuba tank and carried along on dives, but with two tubes it's also a proper pressure vessel capable of being lowered, like a bathyscaphe, to depths of up to 100 feet. The only other habitat in the Hampture project that was capable of 1atm deep water deployment was the very first prototype. The aquabubble, being intended for portable use and for being carried along on scuba dives, is supplied heat not by electric resistance pads but instead by nontoxic "lil hottie" chemical handwarmers which provide warmth for around 3-5 hours.


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lake habitat

With all this focus on the new aquarium I thought I'd show some designs for a larger, domed habitat intended to be used in natural bodies of water. It's 16 inches in diameter and too large for the aquarium but just about perfectly sized for an easy to transport, easy to deploy lake hab. With a diameter of 1.3 feet it'll be the largest yet, which seems to be the trend in my designs lately. Whatever winds up being the fourth habitat for aquarium use will need to at least fit in it. Of course, since the dome unit alone costs $100 it may be a while before I can begin work on this.

Hamlab 3 is being decommissioned.

Remember the mixup with the wrong combination of glue (cyanoacrylate) and spray-on accelerant? Well, I thought it was salvageable by going over all the seals with the correct glue/accelerant combo. And in fact it did hold up fairly well, but during the standard 24 hour in-water testing (without occupants) of any new/modified habitat, it took on about a centimeter of water, and any amount is unacceptable. For those of you who have asked why I'm this ridiculously cautious and methodical about a hobby, anything that goes underwater or into space and must support life demands it. At any rate, I deem Hamlab 3 unsafe for further use. I'll be salvaging the ballast weights but the rest is going in the garbage. I have almost all the pieces I need to build another habitat exactly like it, and this time providing only the correct accelerant is used throughout construction it will be as dependable and solid as the other habs. Rather than rebuild the same design, this might also be an opportunity to make something different. Suggestions for novel habitat designs are welcome, preferably based on transparent waterproof acrylic/lexan containers already designed to be used by divers/kayakers. I had my eye on one of these large dome habitats, as they are designed to optionally be used as aquariums (and are therefore excellently sealed) but the $100 price is outside of the current budget after buying the 100 gallon aquarium, besides which it's just barely too large in diameter to fit. Still, I have my heart set on eventually purchasing one for conversion into a habitat when I can afford to, as it looks just perfect for it and is spacious enough to contain a running wheel like Hambase Alpha, an amenity I am becoming more and more convinced that hamsternauts need to be happy in the long term.

The final city takes shape

The last one's just a placeholder, still waiting on funds for the fourth habitat. And obviously we're gonna need more intrepid hamsternauts to populate the city, even as it is now it's kind of empty. Can't wait to get some fish and plants in there. A small shark or octopus, maybe?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Preparing to purchase the aquarium

It's 100 gallon with a bay window style front. 20 inches deep, nearly twice the depth of the current 'tank' (a clear plastic storage tub). The water level will be at least 10 inches above the highest point of the hab (the water bottle) instead of just barely above it, as it is now. The habs will be properly underwater, by a good distance, but still well short of the max depth that the pump is rated for. There's room for upgrading to a larger, deeper aquarium in the future but as a starter tank this one's enormous. It will be illuminated by overhead lamp, stocked with plants/gravel/fish, roomy enough to contain four habitats generously spaced apart and deep enough to be a suitable alternative to lake deployment. I'm excited; once my laptop's repaired I can begin streaming live video of the three existing habs inside the aquarium, and eventually all four.

Things I still need (Prices include shipping)

~An additional battery backup air pump ($80)
~Materials for a fourth habitat ($250)
~6 additional hamsternauts to populate the rest of the habs ($12 per hamster times 6 = $72)
~Fish, coral, plants ($50)
~Four more resistive heaters (So there's two per habitat)($30)
~16 by 9 HD webcam to show entire city in one stream ($30)

The streaming video will most likely be on Livestream, it will be free to watch, always on 24/7 except during maintenance and will be in 720p provided I can get a webcam capable of it.

Here is how it's expected to look in the near term with two air pumps, three habs and no fish/plants/coral:

Here's what the finished setup might look like, with the fourth habitat, some plants and fish. 

Once all of this is done, I will consider the city complete, and Project Hampture fully realized. Everyone will be able to log in and watch the city over livestream as much as they like, but I'll be moving on to the Skyhab project. That's also very promising, and I've been neglecting it so that I could finally do justice to the Hampture concept with this complete, 4 hab city in a large scenic aquarium.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Hampture may become available for purchase.

I am shopping the idea around to a number of potential manufacturers and there's one in particular with an existing product that might easily be adapted for this type of use. I don't know if anything will come of it, but if it does, odds are you'll eventually be able to purchase a consumer grade underwater hamster hab of your very own. Stay tuned.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Aquasphere complete

Due to a much appreciated pair of $5 donations, I've been able to quickly complete the Aquasphere. If I can't raise funds for a fourth proper habitat, I may simply deploy aquasphere along with the three I do have, although not for as long a duration as the Aquasphere is more of a bathyscaphe than a habitat and not equipped with the amenities or leg room needed for comfortable long term habitation. Even so it's everything I could've hoped for. It can be used either as an ambient pressure or (for the first time!) 1atm system owing to the strength of the shape and materials (As well as the excellent seal provided by the twin silicone O-rings) it is perfectly neutrally buoyant with a hamsternaut inside, and it vaguely resembles an underwater pokeball. :3

As you can see in the last pic, because it relies on the weight of the silica gel litter to remain upright, it tends to tilt a little bit as the occupant moves around, because that shifts the center of gravity. As the Aquasphere is intended to be carried by hand, this is not a serious issue, although because I am someone that's anal retentive about precise ballasting it does bug me a little bit.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Out of money.

Unfortunately things are a bit tight right now and I can't afford to continue this or any other project out of pocket. The latest part, the aqua sphere, I have about 75% of the needed parts for. Three out of the four main habitats for Phase 1 are complete. That's where things stand, I'll wait on donations and hopefully resume construction on the aqua sphere and fourth habitat soon.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Working on a small pet carrier for a single hamster that is neutrally buoyant (neither sinks nor floats) so I can carry one hambro with me at a time on helmet dives. The parts are modular, so this could also be used as the basis of a new hamsub.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Hamstation repaired, hambase upgraded

Hamstation works beautifully now. Just needed replacement glue. It's not pretty but it works, and I've added a second electric heating pad to Hambase. I may also add LED lights inside, just for funsies. With this specific type of heater now proven to my satisfaction I'll begin adding them to the other habitats as time and funding permit.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Kickstarter rejection

I guess that's that. They also rejected the low cost solar/battery powered diving helmet. I appreciate the suggestions to use this site but it doesn't seem like they'll accept any of my projects.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hamstation ruined?

I got a bad batch of glue apparently. I use Insta-cure, it's an exothermic fast-set glue that you spray an accelerant fluid on to make it harden in seconds. It's fantastically watertight, sturdy, and makes rapid construction and prototyping possible.

However the bottle I just recently bought must contain a faulty batch. It no longer cures when you spray the accelerant on it, it turns into a goopy greyish mess. Somehow the wrong chemical was labeled as accelerant. Or the glue is to blame? Either way if I can't clean it out of the bottom of the habitat I may have to scrap it and start over. A very expensive mistake.

I'll be returning this bottle and the bottle of accelerant to the store soon and having it replaced. Hopefully the grey crap can be washed out and I can salvage hamstation. If not I may need help buying new components for a replacement habitat.

P.S. this is their second week underwater in Hambase Alpha. Well, first was a 7 day mission, then a day of rest on land, and since then they have been underwater an additional 8 days. Food and water supplies are still abundant, so I'm gonna try for a month.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hampture life support explanation

People in the video comments kept saying things like "DON'T YOU KNOW THEY NEED FRESH AIR??" apparently assuming that I had no idea terrestrial mammals need a mechanism for fresh air delivery and CO2 removal in order to live underwater. Hopefully this video will put an end to that. But I'm not 'holding my breath" wololololo

Friday, April 13, 2012

Main city module complete

"Ham-Base Alpha" is finished and in the water. Largest of all modules it can comfortably house 3 to 5 hamsters, with 4 being the recommended number. It contains not just necessities like a water bottle, chewing log and ample food dish but amenities like a running wheel and larger chew toys I happened to see at petsmart and thought they might like. :3

I'm very pleased with how it turned out. It's large enough that it's right on the edge of what is practical to transport and deploy, but that means ample elbow room for the hamsternauts inside. This habitat is truly sufficient for longer term missions, measured in months rather than weeks. The food dish contains enough for that, but I may have to upgrade to a larger water bottle, that remains to be seen.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The city grows.

New habitat completed. Or 90%. Still leaks more air than I'd like. No water gets in due to the overpressure, but it looks sloppy. Once I figure out where to put the water bottle it'll be done. I'm thinking a silicone ring added to the lid would make for a tighter seal? Anyway, enjoy:

Here's the new habitat by itself, if you want a closer look:

Hampture update

Completed testing of module 1 of 4, "Hamlab II". Here's some footage:

 Just ordered a new enclosure for module 3, the largest building which will house 3 hamsternaut occupants. More to come.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

This is why I don't add a feeding tube.

Yes of course a remote controlled firmly sealing motorized door on the other end of the tube would solve this problem, but I know of no such kit and building such a thing from scratch is beyond my abilities. Besides which, food is not the limiting factor timewise, I can fit enough food in there to last for months. The limiting factor is how long I can leave it down before the litter needs changing, and if I need to bring it up once a month anyway I may as well use that opportunity to resupply food. Ergo, no feeding tube.

Airlocks and submarines

So, I have been prototyping different ideas for a safe airlock so that I can resupply each habitat with food without bringing it to the surface. It's a harder problem than it seems like. A moon pool won't suffice, since it lets in too much humidity over time and the hamsters quickly learn they can dive out of it. A double door airlock won't work because obviously they aren't smart enough to open the inner door by themselves and I can figure out no way of doing so from outside.
So, what I have come up with is a single door airlock/moon pool combo. When the door is closed, air coming down through the tunnel slowly forces water out the one-way valve in the floor of the airlock chamber until it is empty. When it is open, it floods the chamber only up to the top of the little doorway cut into the climbing tunnel, air continues to bubble out. I have researched relatively waterproof foods that come in large chunks that I can quickly put into the airlock, and found that glazed "treat sticks" fit the bill; Nuts, seeds and other goodies glued together with honey. Having submerged these and then allowed them to dry, they do not become soggy except after many submersions (the sugary outer layer eventually dissolves.) I think I could easily stick one of these into the airlock, close the door, purge the water, and it would be very edible after a minute or two.
I have also been thinking about Hamsub Mk2. The Mk1 was slow, clumsy, cramped and limited to shallow water. I would like the Mk2. to be fast, maneuverable, spacious and to carry it's own air supply. Towards that end, I was looking at the state of the art in RC subsAs you can see, these days RC subs can be extremely fast, maneuverable and sophisticated, featuring everything from individually controllable pivoting gun turrets to battery propelled torpedos that really fire.
I have also discovered that the Playmobil toy line includes a number of surprisingly sophisticated toy submersibles with sealable, strongly watertight cabins, electric propulsion, and functioning ballast tanks. They also make a smaller but equally watertight "diving bell" that could be stripped down to the watertight portion and then added to a high end RC sub as the cockpit.

The specific sub I had my eye on for the basis of Hamsub Mk2. can be seen here. It's very robust and already ballasted appropriately such that adding the modified toy diving bell to the front would not affect the balance (in place of the viewing bubble, which does not appear to be water tight.) For the onboard air supply, I would sling one of these micro scuba air tanks under the sub's body. I'd then affix a valve that would let me set it to very slowly release the contents into the 'crew cabin', which would vent bubbles continuously out a one way valve in the floor. Because both the air canister and the proposed 'crew cabin' come pre-ballasted to neutral buoyancy, neither would upset the balance of the sub itself. Based on the rate at which a single hamster consumes air, that canister could easily provide over an hour of life support between refills. As it's still an ambient pressure design, the safe depth would be no deeper than 21 feet, although that's ample considering the city itself will be no deeper than 8 feet.

P.S. big thanks to Scroton, who recently donated a 50 watt solar panel and additional battery pack; With these, it is possible to keep a colony running perpetually even far from any source of power, by charging one battery while the other is in use, and periodically swapping them. The solar panel will ensure a single battery lasts around two days on a charge and the air pump has it's own integrated battery so it will keep running during the swap.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hamlab IV

Structure 2 of 4 that will comprise the first actual multi-structure 'city', Hamlab IV (better name pending) has two individual sleeping quarters and a large shared atrium with transparent dome cieling and an interior water supply (for a later experiment in refilling the water bottle while the habitat is submerged.) Pardon the water droplets, it was filled with plastic shavings after I finished the outer shell and I've just washed it out. Below I've included the concept illustration, a photo of the work in progress habitat alone, next to the completed Hamlab II for comparison, and then a side shot to show the view through the sleeping pod's window. In keeping with the new design philosophy, each occupant has a private space to themselves, and the overall size/weight does not make it difficult to transport/deploy. However I did choose the "multiple linked modules" because of a commenter's observation that single-structure habitats aren't as fun to watch because there aren't any tunnels for the hamsternauts to go through. I'll try to include such tunnels and multiple modules on the next habitat as well. Together with the Mk. IV, Hamlab II and whatever the fourth building is, the completed city will house nine hamsters in total. That can be increased to thirteen with the addition of another air pump and two more habitats, as the battery pack has three outlets in total, but the initial city will have four buildings.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

HAMLAB 1 and 2

Here's Hamlab 2, the two story observation tower built from a 100 CDR spindle and a 20 CDR spindle plus fishing weights and assorted other parts. I'm pleased with the unusual design. You can see the much smaller Hamlab 1 next to it, unoccupied. It was only suitable for 5 or 10 minute uses due to the small interior room and lack of a water bottle. Hamlab 2 comfortably houses two hamsters and includes a food dish, water bottle, nesting fluff and silica litter to prevent the buildup of humidity or waste fumes. If this approach of building smaller individual habitats proves more practical than the gigantic Mk. III all in one approach I may simply build a city out of unconnected individual living structures, on account of pet guides advising not to put hamsters from different sibling groups together. With this more gradual, affordable approach I think a city of perhaps eight structures total is feasible at a depth of between 3 and 7 feet.