Billionaires are well-known for buying nuclear bunkers and remote properties in hopes of surviving a coming collapse – but some have set their sights on the open sea as a new home.
Wealthy investors including Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel have planned to launch ‘floating cities’ where they will be exempt from the laws that govern nations in the world, and potentially safe from disasters engulfing land-dwellers.
The Seasteading Institute, backed initially by an investment from Thiel, has spent 15 years researching the idea of permanent floating communities living in international water, free from regulation.
In 2022, company Ocean Builders – backed by Bitcoin trader Chad Elwartowski – unveiled ‘the Seapod’, a floating building with 733 square feet of living space, which stands on a pole seven feet above the water.
SeaPods will offer floating homes for the wealthy (Ocean Builders)
The Seasteading Institute planned a floating city off Polynesia (Seasteading Institute)
Ambitious designs would create Utopian floating towns and villages in international waters (Seasteading Institute)
Other planned floating cities include Oceanix Busan
But the first Ocean Pod collapsed as it was unveiled in September 2022, with its makers blaming a ‘bilge pump malfunction’.
Elwartowski also constructed a floating fiberglass home off the coast of Thailand in 2019 for himself and his wife, Nadia Thepdet,
However, the couple was forced to flee before a police raid after the couple posted videos of themselves drinking champagne in the seastead.
The couple were facing a possible death penalty after the Thai government said their actions challenged the country’s ‘independence’.
French Polynesia pulled out of a proposed deal for a cryptocurrency-funded floating city in 2017 – with the Seasteading Institute blaming false information spread during an election campaign.
Thiel has cooled on the Seasteading Institute in recent years, but the non-profit is still thriving.
Joe Quirk, President of the Institute, said in a YouTube video this year: ‘The technology for floating startup governments is at hand and we’re eager to make it happen as soon as possible.
Ocean Builders have ambitious plans for the SeaPod (Ocean Builders)
The plans for the ‘SeaZone’ floating city were ambitious (Seasteading Institute)
A prototype SeaPod was unveiled in 2022 (AP)
‘I came here from the opposite of a floating city, which is San Francisco, California. A lot of people are not satisfied with the way it’s [San Fran] governed.
‘But imagine if we could bring San Francisco up into lots of little pieces, and people could move about and choose the neighbors they want. We’d have variation by governance providers and selection by citizens.
‘Let a class of people try lots of ideas, so we’ll discover the best solutions for how to live.’
The Seasteading Institute hopes that floating cities would have ‘significant political autonomy’.
The Institute says: ‘Nearly half the world’s surface is unclaimed by any nation-state, and many coastal nations can legislate seasteads in their territorial waters.
A ‘seastead’ raided by Thai police in 2019 after Bitcoin entrepreneur Chad Elwartowski set up the seastead in international waters (EPA)
Bitcoin entrepreneur Chad Elwartowski set up the seastead in international water but was threatened with the death penalty (EPA)
‘We promote the creation of floating ocean cities as a revolutionary solution to some of the world’s most pressing problems: rising sea levels, overpopulation, poor governance, and more.’
The idea of living on the high seas has a long history, with the L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology having created the ‘Sea Organisation’ or Sea Org based on ships in the 1960s.
And the dream is still alive around the world.
Florida company Arktide plans to build ‘affordable real estate on the seas’ in the coming decade, while SeaPod is planning constructions in Asia and Europe.
SeaPod proclaims: ‘The dawn of the aquatic age has begun!’
Meanwhile, the UN-backed Oceanix project in Korea has unveiled its own vision of a floating city to help coastal communities cope with rising sea levels.
Oceanix says: ‘Busan aims to provide breakthrough technology for coastal cities facing severe land shortages that are compounded by climatic threats.’