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Approved for public release; distribution is 


Distribution authorized to U.S. Gov't, agencies 
and their contractors ; 

Administrative /Operational Use; OCT 1966. Other 
requests shall be referred to Naval Ordnance 
Test Center r China Lake, CA. 


NWC ltr 11 Apr 1968 


HOTS TP 4162 



W by 

C. F. Austin 


Research Department 

ABSTRACT . Large undersea installations with a shirt-sleeve 
environment have existed under the continental shelves for 
many decades. The technology now exists, using off-the- 
shelf petroleum, mining, submarine, and nuclear equipment, 
to establish permanent manned instillations within the sea 
floor that do not have any air umbilical c. other connection 
with the land or water surface, yet maintain a normal one- 
atmosphere environment within. This presentation briefly 
reviews the past and present in-the- sea- floor mineral indus- 
try. The methodB presently practical for direct access to 
and from permanent in-the-sea- floor installations are out- 
lined, and the specific operations and types of tools indi- 
cated. Initial power requirements and cost estimates are 

China Lake, California October 1966 





This report summarizes concepts developed through extensive liter- 
ature and field studies as a part of the continuing investigation of 
the undersea environment and its utilization. 

The work was performed during Fiscal Year 1966. Both the studies 
and preparation of this report were supported by Independent Explora- 
tory Development, Bureau of Naval Weapons Task Assignment R361-OO 
OO0/2l6-l/FOO8-98-l6 . 

This report has been reviewed for technical accuracy by Donald K. 
Moore, David W. Scholl, and George A. Wilkins. 

Released by Under authority of 


Research Department Technical Director 

1 September 1966 

J. I.Hardy. Capt.,USN 

Wm. B. McLean, Ph.D. 

Technical Dlrucfor 


NOTS Technical Publication kite 

Published by 


First printing 

Security classification 

Research Department 

Cover, 23 leaves, DD Form 1*4-75, abstract cards 

255 unnumbered copies 




Introduction 1 

Historical Review 3 

Entry Into the Sea Floor 12 

From the Land 12 

From the Sea 20 

Working Space 28 

Sea-Floor Access From Within 32 

Why Rock Site - the Advantages 32 

Site Selection Considerations 3U 

Some Industrial Implications 35 

Conclusions 35 

References 36 


NOTS TP kite 


Permanent manned Installations at the bottom of the sea Is a goal that 
is being actively pursued by many nations, by many governmental agencies 
within our own nation, and by various industrial concerns. The recent 
report by the Panel of Oceanography of the President "s Science Advisory 
Committee has emphasized this nation's interest in the sea and has listed 
a series of priorities for efforts in oceanography that deal with national 
security (Ref . l). Among the requirements for achieving the needed deep- 
ocean capability is the ability to establish large working spaces with a 
one-atmosphere environment beneath the ocean surface. 

Two concepts for achieving manned undersea installations have received 
considerable public notice in recent months. One of these is the satura- 
tion diving technique, which is being pursued in the Sea Lab studies. The 
second, a method of achieving a one-atmosphere working space in the deep 
sea, is to construct and use bottom- sitting structures, either fully pre- 
fabricated or assembled on the bottom. One of the more complex of the 
latter is the "bottom- fix" proposal for the mid- Atlantic ridge by General 
Electric (Ref. 2). 

These two methods of achieving manned undersea installations are cer- 
tainly practical for some uses, and at least for small installations are 
definitely feasible with today's technology, although only Sea Lab has 
been well-demonstrated to date. There is, however, a third concept for 
manned undersea installations, and furthermore, installations that are 
feasible with today's tools and technology. This concept, being pursued 
at the U. S. Naval Ordnance Test Station, is called "Rock Site." In 
brief, a Rock-Site installation consists of a room or series of rooms, 
excavated within the bedrock beneath the sea floor, using the in situ 
bedrock as the construction material. These installations exist today, 
established by industry, and they have existed for decades. As an imme- 
diate illustration of the practicality of this approach, consider Fig. 1. 
The room shown in this photograph is a machine shop excavated in bedrock 
beneath the sea floor and is located off the eastern coast of Canada. 
This particular installation has 7£ square miles of permanent floor space 
beneath the sea floor, an area that would be difficult to duplicate using 
prefabricated structures. The depth of water above the shop area is 
100 feet, and in winter this water is capped by several feet of drift ice. 
The distance offshore is 2\ miles . 

A series of openings, such as the one in Fig. 1, could obviously 
contain an extensive repair and supply capability for the support of 

undersea operations. An Installation with several square miles of useful 
floor beneath 1,100 feet of rock, as in the case of Fig. 1, could be a 
major cotntunity with full family and recreational living facilities as 
comfortable as those in any city building. Located along the mid-Atlantic 
ridge or on selected seamounts, the potential for research from this type 
of site becomes large, since the site, though immobile, is also 

FIG. 1. Undersea Machine Shop off the Coast of Newfoundland. 
Located 1,500 feet below sea level, beneath UOO feet of water 

This report will discuss the findings to date of a study program 
regarding the Rock-Site concept per se and will review the problems and 
needs pertinent to establishing Rock-Site- ~,ype installations within the 
bedrock beneath the sea floor today, using only today's tooling and 
technology . 





Industrially established working sites with a one-atmosphere environ- 
ment have existed beneath the sea floor for many years. The first such 
installation under the continental shelves of North America was begun in 
1867 off the coast of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and was dug using hand 
labor. Surely modem mechanized mining methods can do as well today. 

On a world-wide basis, a study of the literature of undersea mining 
shows that manned installations within the sea floor have been carried 
out with varying degrees of success in Australia, Canada, Chile, England, 
Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Japan, Poland, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey, 
and the United States. At least 75 companies or mining installations 
have been involved in these undersea activities. Commodities mined 
beneath the sea floor by means of manned undersea installations include 
coal, iron ore, nickel-copper ores, tin, gold, and limestone. Some of 
these undersea mining complexes, in existence today, spread across many 
tens of square miles of continental shelf and measure their workings in 
terms of thousands of miles of linear openings. Most of the present-day 
undersea mining installations that are beneath the sea floor are little 
known outside of the mining fraternity, and are not too well known even 
there. Inquiries to mining associations and to governmental agencies in 
countries with known undersea operations bring conflicting reports and 
even statements indicating a complete lack of knowledge of the existence 
of such operations. 

As an operating example of an undersea installation off the coast of 
North America, the Dominion Coal operations adjacent to Cape Breton have 
an enviable record of safe and successful undersea coal mining. The 
Dominion Coal operations are a complex of many consolidated undersea 
mines ranging in depth from 200 to 2,700 feet below the sea floor, with 
a water cover of 60 to 100 feet. These mines span an area of approxi- 
mately 75 square miles and presently employ some 4,100 men in the 
undersea workings. 

The available literature on mining operations conducted beneath the 
sea floor is extensive, but articles dealing specifically with the prob- 
lems and hazards resulting from the hydrostatic load above are few, and 
the literature describing mine floodings and disasters due to water 
inflows and other possible problems is quite scanty. A review of the 
literature on underwater mines is presented as a part of the reference 
section. References to mines situated beneath large lakes and rivers 
have been omitted, though many such mines exist. Furthermore, the refer- 
ence section excludes the literature of "sandhog" or other pressurized, 
shallow operations, and has completely omitted the vast and voluminous 
literature on the English Channel crossing, most of which consists of 
outdated speculations and politically based arguments. The reference 
list on undersea mines includes only deep and extensive undersea 



activities. Broad descriptive articles on undersea operations comprise 
Ref. 3-60, with the paper by Gray (Ref. 28) especially well done. Arti- 
cles with descriptions of undersea accidents due to unexpected break- 
throughs into the sea floor or to other problems pertinent to the undersea 
environment comprise Ref. 6l— 70. Historically, undersea mining has been 
no more troublesome than the same type of operations carried out beneath 
an ordinary land surface. Indeed, at the present time, the best examples 
of mine flood ings and, in particular, of mine operations within zones of 
high water pressures are to be found on land (Ref. 71 and 72). Cata- 
strophlc water inflows in undersea mines, discounting seepages and flows 
that originate on adjacent land and migrate down the bedding to beneath 
the sea, have generally been the result of mining too close to the sea 
floor; the result of over-extractions followed by widespread collapse in 
attempts to prolong the life of a mine, or the result of a failure to keep 
pilot holes ahead in areas of questionable water flow potential or 
uncertain bedrock topography. 

Figure 1 shows the size of a single room that one operating company 
has been able to safely achieve under the sea floor in a strong sediment, 
in this instance an iron ore (hematite) overlain by two thin conglomerate 
beds and an extensive section of shale. Figures 2-6, all taken underneath 
the sea floor off the coast of Cape Breton, show a series of machinery 
installations illustrating the continued and routine operation by industry 
of large complex hydraulic mechanical and electrical equipment at various 
depths beneath the sea floor while Fig. 7-9 illustrate underground ware- 
housing and rail transport in the Wabana operations which are 1,500 feet 
below sea level off the coast of Newfoundland. 

Many persons associate mining installations with poor conditions. In 
large part this stems from the temporary nature of most mine excavations 
which are intended for only a few weeks or months of use at best. People 
tend to overlook that the permanent mine installations in an underground 
operations are generally clean, comfortable, and as well as or better air 
conditioned than many surface-type industrial plants. Figure 10 shows a 
typical temporary mining opening 200 feet beneath the sea floor while 
Fig. 11 shows how a comparable mine opening in the same area has been 
cleaned up and established as a permanent installation. The distance off- 
shore at which these pictures were taken varies from the coastline to only 
about 2\ miles, but ohe pictures serve to illustrate conditions within 
typical present-day operations beneath the sea floor. The present-day 
mining industry has for many decades conclusively demonstrated the eco- 
nomic practicality of establishing large manned working spaces with a 
one-atmosphere environment beneath the ocean floor for the extraction of 
raw materials . 


HOTS TP kite 

FIG. 2. 1,800-hp Electric Motor Installation. It is 470 feet 
below sea level and approximately UQO feet below the sea floor 
(Dominion Coal). 


NOTS TP kite 

FIG. 3. Hoisting Equipment With Hydraulic and Electro-mechanical 
Controls. Located k"JO feet below the sea level and approximately 
1+00 feet belov the sea floor (Dominion Coal). 



FIG. k. Conveyor Belt Transfer Point and Loading Facilities. 
Approximately 3 miles offshore and beneath the continental 
shelf (Dominion Coal). 


NOTS TP kl62 

FIG. 8. Warehouse Installation. It is Z\ miles offshore and 
1,500 feet below sea level with a UOO-foot water cover 
(Wabana) . 



FIG. 9- Rail Transport Facilities. Located 1,500 feet below 
sea level with a 1*00- foot water cover (Wabana). 



Industrially established working sites or nines within the sea floor 
all obtain access to the bedrock beneath the sea floor by means of shafts 
and tunnels to an adjacent land surface. This land surface can be the 
mainland as with the John Darling Colliery in Australia, from a natural 
island, as with the Wabana Mine at Bell Island off the coast of Newfound- 
land, or from an artificial island as at the Hiike Colliery in Japan. 
Figure 12 shows a vertical shaft which is used in conjunction with a 
tunnel and slope system to reach coal located under the sea adjacent to 
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Figure 13 shows an inclined shaft used to 
reach undersea iron ore off the coast of Bell Island, Newfoundland, while 
Fig. Ik shows an artificial island in use off the coast of Japan for sea- 
floor access. At these, as with all present-day manned undersea mining 
installations, a vertical or inclined shaft and tunnel system serves as 
an air umbilical between the mining operations and the adjacent land 
surface . 


FIG. 10. typical Temporary Coal Mine Opening After 10 Years 
of Disuse. In this Instance it is located 2kO feet beneath 
the sea floor, with a water cover of 60 feet (Dominion Coal). 


FIG. 11. Pump Room. Illustrating how a mine opening can be 
cleaned up to provide a pleasant working space, in this 
instance 700 feet below sea level and at the shore line 
(Dominion Coal). 

NOTS TP 4162 

FIO. 13. Inclined Shaft at Bell Island. Newfoundland for 
Access to a Submarine Iron Mine (Wabana) . 



This use of an air umbilical enables present-day undersea installa- 
tions to obtain all needed power and life support from the surface in the 
form of compressed air, fan-driven ventilation systems, electricity, and 
in some instances diesel oil for underground use. The distances offshore 
to which existing mines can operate is sharply limited by several consid- 
erations. As mines move offshore, many also go down dip, that is, follow 
the coal or ore beds deeper beneath the sea floor. With increasing rock 
loads, mining becomes more and more expensive and ultimately uneconomical, 
especially for low value products that must be produced in great volumes. 
As mines extend further offshore, the transportation of both crews and 
commercial products becomes more difficult, especially in those mines with 
fluctuating dips in the rock strata being mined. With increased distance 
offshore, the provision of sufficient ventilating air becomes a problem. 
Ventilation is especially a problem with coal mines where large air 
volumes are needed to dilute the methane released from the coal measures 
to concentrations well below the explosive limits for air and methane. 
Present-day mine planners in the coal industry talk of distances of 12 to 
15 miles offshore as a possible economic limit for many existing mining 
operations, though these numbers will unquestionably prove to be 

Installations with an air umbilical back to shore are certainly fea- 
sible with today's technology. Figure 15 shows a sketch of such an 
installation. In this figure, access is by means of a vertical shaft. 
From this shaft a horizontal opening extends in two directions. One open- 
ing leads to a reactor chamber housing, according to present plans, a 
5-megawatt-electrical (Mwe) reactor cooled either by convectively circu- 
lating sea water or by leakage water derived from the main sump. The 
second opening leads first to a laboratory and office complex, and then 
to an experimental access system. Here there are vehicle locks for 
bringing submersible vehicles into the one-atmosphere environment of the 
installation and lock tubes, bored both inward and outward for access by 
means of the Undersea Research Vehicle (URV) and similar types of sub- 
mersibles. These lock tubes could be for practice in getting into and 
out of the sea floor without the air umbilical from land, and will also 
be of great value in testing hatch and access systems. 

.Land-based undersea installations are not only practical today but 
are not overly expensive. The depth of shaft needed for a land-based 
installation will depend on the depth needed to reach either a competent 
rock horizon beneath the sea floor or else a desired depth from a con- 
struction point of view. Assume an installation depth of 1,000 feet below 
the surface is desired. A probable depth of shaft is then 1,200 feet. 
Shafts can be excavated by drilling and blasting, but a more usable shaft 
with far less maintenance and damage to the rock around the shaft will 
result from boring, a technique Just now coming into general industrial 
use (Ref. 73 and 74). With a bored shaft in the range of 5 to 8 feet in 
diameter, the cost will be roughly k million dollars completed, including 
the life support and service systems although some industrial firms will 



now estimate a cost of about 2 million dollars for this size of installa- 
tion. Large diameter shaft drilling has been well discussed in the 
literature and extensive charts and graphs for detailed cost estimating 
are available (Ref. 75). 

FIG. 15- Undersea Rock-Site Type of Installation Feasible 
With Today's Technology. Includes a vertical access shaft 
or "air umbilical, " a reactor chamber, drill holes to the 
sea floor for reactor coolant circulation, a working or 
laboratory space, two lock tubes to the sea floor, and a 
vehicle lock. 

For long distance undersea tunnelling, boring is especially attractive 
(Ref. 76-78). Boring methods require only electric power, and yield no 
serious fumes or gases as would be the case for tunnels driven by con- 
ventional explosive methods. Boring machines are now essentially off-the- 
shelf equipment for rocks ranging from rather weak shales to strong hard 
sandstones and have been used with encouraging results in even stronger 
metaraorphic rocks. With hydraulic or other automated handling of the 
ground-up waste rock, including ejection of the waste to the 6ea floor, 



tunnel boring in a rock strong enough to be fully self-supporting with a 
15- to 20-foot-diameter bore can proceed at rates up to 5 miles per year 
for a cost of 1 to 1.5 million dollars per mile. Figure 16 shows a con- 
temporary unlined, bored tunnel in a sandstone while Fig. 17 shows a bored 
tunnel requiring supports. In the latter instance, supports followed to 
within k feet of the tunnel face while boring was in progress. With 
modern day shaft and tunnel boring techniques, access to the sea floor 
from land can be carried out at depths beneath the sea of several thousand 
feet (to at least 10,000 to 12,000 feet) and to distances offshore of tens 
to hundreds of miles. 

FIG. 16. Unlined Tunnel Driven in One Pass Through Sandstone. 
The tunnel is 19 to 21 feet in diameter depending on local 
rock conditions (Farmington). 


FIG. 17. Tunnel Bored to a 21-foot Diameter in One Pass in Sandstone 
and Shale, Requiring Artificial Supports (Farmington) . 


Direct access into the sea- floor bedrock by means of a lock system 
for passing through the sea-floor-vater interface is a practice now 
within the technologic capability of this nation's industry. The final 
desired step-in sea-floor entry is to prove and to establish the feasi- 
bility of a method of direct access to the sea floor at a point remote 
from land. With such a method, manned undersea installations are possible 
at virtually any location even those remote from shore. If the cost of 
this direct access were not too great, then the method of direct access 
could quickly compete with the methods of tunnelling from shore, even 
adjacent to our own coastline. 



The Rock-Site method of direct sea-floor access is shown schematically 
in Fig. 18, and consists of four steps that can be summarized as follows: 

1. Drill a 5- to 8- foot-diameter drill hole a distance of 50 feet 
into competent sea- floor bedrock. 1 

2. Cement a lock tube into the borehole and then deballast the tube. 

3. From inside of the tube, drill and grout as needed to consolidate 
the adjacent host rock with emphasis on consolidating the underlying rock. 

k. Cpen the tube bottom and drill vertically downward into the bed- 
rock until a suitable rock cover exists for the establishment of 
horizontal working and living spaces. 

Although this method of entering the sea floor is new, there has been no 
new technology proposed in any of the four steps. The drilling of large 
diameter holes for mine shafts and ventilation winzes has been practiced 
for years in rocks ranging from incompetent to very strong and hard 
(Ref. 79). By using only a short length of hole, no bit or cutter changes 
will be needed during the drilling program and no rods need be added in 
the event the drilling is to be done submerged. The latter is certainly 
feasible with lowered packages and appears feasible from existing sub- 
mersible hulls as well. Present-day drilling platforms and barges can 
work at depths comparable to the depths attainable by older fleet boats 
(World War II-type submarines.) 

Since the desired hole into the sea floor is short, the drilling rate 
need not be high in order to result in a short drilling time, thus per- 
mitting considerable trade off between total drilling times, bit weights, 
and horsepower applied. Drilling from barges and platforms in an estab- 
lished petroleum-drilling and coal -boring technique that is available for 
immediate operations in water up to a few hundred feet in depth (Ref. 80 
and 8l). Drilling from large complex barges has been successfully 
demonstrated in 11,700 feet of water and is approaching operational 
reality in very deep waters such as the lU, 000-foot depths contemplated 
by the MOHO project (Ref. 82-8U). Drilling from packages lowered from a 
ship or hung on the exterior of a submersible has not been demonstrated 
to date, but studies are now in progress in this area industrially 2 and 
no serious drilling-system-design-problems are anticipated because there 
need be no bit changes or rod additions during the boring operations. 
Most questions regarding the feasibility of drilling from a submersible 
involve the problems of achieving enough load on the bit and preventing 

From a technologic standpoint holes in excess of 25-foot diameter 
have now been drilled on land. 

2 Personal communication with Electric Boat Division of General 
Dynamics . 



the submersible from rotating. Standard drilling methods of using heavy 
metal drill collars to achieve weight on the bit are certainly possible 
and thrusters or ai.chors on the submersible or barge can be used to pre- 
vent rotation. Some persons have even suggested letting the submersible 
rotate, using its drag as the source of bit torque. The author prefers 
the concept of drilling a pilot hole in which the pilot tools are expanded 
at a desired depth to act as an anchor, with the pilot tool drill rod then 
acting as a feed rod to pull the large diameter bit into the sea- floor 
bedrock. Whatever the method chosen for any particular undersea instal- 
lation, the time required to drill 50 feet into the sea-floor bedrock 
should not be great. Advance rates of 1 foot per hour are reasonable, 
thus changes in weather and wave patterns will be a minimal hazard to the 
drilling system and offshore operations can be conducted in areas of only 
sporadic clement weather or open water, even when relying on existing 
drilling barges or platforms as the type of drilling system employed. 

FIG. 18. Rock-Site Method of Direct Sea-Floor Access. Consists of four 
steps: (l) bore a hole into the sea floor, (2) cement a lock tube into 
the bore hole, (3) ring drill the surrounding host rock and pump cement 
or other grout into the drill holes to consolidate the host rock, and 
(h) drill on into the sea floor I low the lock tube. 



Rock-Site entry into the sea floor will require that the lock tube be 
set in some sort of rock that is at least competent enough to permit con- 
solidation by grouting or other cementing operations. The length of lock 
tube and the depth of bottom mud over the sea- floor bedrock that can be 
economically dealt with will depend obviously upon the wind-wave-time 
hazards of the site and on the importance of the anticipated undersea 
installation (that is, is the cost of a long penetration in mud prior to 
bedrock Justifiable). 

Any location on the sea floor that consists of consolidated sediments 
strong enough to stand as an open bore can be entered to yield one- 
atmosphere working sites . A surprising amount of the deep ocean appears 
to be accessible competent bedrock. Some oceanographers now estimate 
that as much as 20$ of the deep ocean may be bare rock while within a few 
tens of feet of the sea floor some kQ$> of the sea- floor area is expected 
to be competent rock. Even on the flatter continental shelves, there is 
considerable exposed bare rock that will permit Rock-Site-type lock-tube 
installations. For example, the continental shelf off the coast of 
Southern California appears to have some 10 to 15$ of its area comprised 
of bare hard bedrock, with considerably more area being underlain by hard 
drillable sediments very close to the sea- floor surf ace. 5 

The second step of the sea-floor entry method proposed is to cement 
a prefabricated lock tube into the borehole. This procedure is no dif- 
ferent than the setting of casing in any well. Once the lock tube is in 
place, cement is pumped into the annulus between the tube and the host 
rock, and allowed to set. Following this, the lock tube is dewatered or 
deballasted and can then be entered for its full length. Getting the 
lock tube into the drill hole can be done in many ways, ranging from 
lowering the tube from a barge or platform, to swinging the tube into the 
hole after the bit is swung out (when boring from a submersible), or by 
having the tube follow the bit into the hole. For most shallow conti- 
nental shelf operations of today, lowering after drilling appears to be 
simplest, while for submersible- vehicle -based drilling, having the lock 
tube follow the bit into the hole appears to be simplest. 

With the lock tube in the drill hole and cemented in place, continued 
access to the lock tube is the next consideration. To be of any value at 
all, a manned undersea installation must be accessible, and since the 
Rock-Site concept is for present-day operations with present-day tech- 
nology, only simple or presently existing access concepts can be employed. 
Access to fully isolated continental shelf installations can be by means 
of submersible vehicles, by tubes to the surface, or by a combination of 
tubes and vehicles. The most economical method of access will depend on 
the degree of surface-water roughness, the depth of the installation, and 

3 Personal communication with Roland von Huene and David W. Scholl 
of this Station. 


NOTS TP kl62 

the degree of secrecy required. Submersible vehicles suitable for access 
use with no modification are in the very near future, drawing upon the 
plans and experiences to be gained in the next few years from the Navy 
Deep Submergence Systems Project in general, and from the URV programs in 
particular, 2nd upon the now emerging fleet of industrial vehicles 
(Ref. 85-87)' Submersible vehicles with a short range that can couple 
onto a lock tube present no technciogic difficulties, but they do not 
exist as widely available off-the-shelf equipment at the present time. 

Two methods of access are especially attractive where fully submerged 
operations are not required. One is to use a telescoping system that is 
either an integral part of the lock tube or that can be mated to the top 
c? the lock tube, and the second is to use a tube that can be pivoted 
about the lock seal, that is, raised for access or swung downward and 
sunk to one side for protection from rough weather. Figure 19 shows line 
sketches of these two systems plus a sketch of a floating instrument 
platform (FLIP-type) system which could also be employed with existing 
technology (Ref. 88 and 89). Older obsolete fleet boats or nuclear sub- 
marines could also be fitted with a lock system that could mate with 
Rock-Site lock tubes, thus enabling under ice and moderately deep undersea 
operations that would be free of immediate surface-support requirements. 

The question of the practicality of large water-tight bulkheads and 
doors is often raised at this point, since the lock tube will obviously 
need to be opened and closed many times. Figure 20 shows a person 
standing in a bulkhead and pressure lock unit that is in present indus- 
trial use. This unit operates against 1,200 feet of head and has been 
successfully cycled many times. With larger locks, such as those intended 
for submarine vehicle entry, the problems of distortion and pressure 
bleed-off rates in the lock walls become more important than with small 
metal-lined locks. Tunnel openings that undergo cyclic stressing will 
tend to crack and their walls will tend to spall, especially if the pres- 
sure is dropped rapidly. Figure 21 shows a tunnel section that has been 
cycled a number of times to 520 psi and that failed after the pressure 
was released during one of the cycles. The author believes this specific 
failure to be the result of tunnel wall flexure followed by cracking, a 
result of the rectangular tunnel outline. 

The third step in the lock-tube emplacement program is to grout the 
host rock surrounding the tube, thereby consolidating the host rock and 
providing both strength and a barrier to large water inflows. Grouting 
from inside of drill holes, shafts, and tunnels has been practiced for 
years (Ref. 90 and 91). 

The final access step to the sea floor is to bore downward to some 
convenient depth within the sea floor below. This operation requires the 
insertion or assembly of a drill within the lock tube, unless the lock 
tube had followed the drill into the bore hole with the drill allowed to 
remain in the hole; an initial source of power to operate the drill; and 


NOTS TP 4l62 

FIG. 19. Methods of Achieving Access to Relatively Shallow 
Continental Shelf Installations, (a) A FLIP -type vehicle, 
(b) telescoping tube, and (c) swinging tube. 


FIG. 20. Pressure Lock and Bulkhead Successfully 
Used With 520 psi Water Pressures (Ruby Hill). 

NOTS TP kl62 

sufficient life-support capability to maintain the drilling crew. Power 
can come from a submersible support boat or vehicle, from a support 
barge, or from a temporary bottom- sitting power plant. Life support can 
also come from a submersible support boat or from a tvbe raised to the 
surface. In the case of sea- floor entry based upon present-day platform 
and barge techniques, there are some obvious advantages to drilling much 
more than merely 50 feet into the sea floor prior to the setting of the 
lock tube, which can in itself be longer and provide more working room 
prior to manned entry into the hole already drilled below the lock tube. 
Cuttings disposal for this phase of the drilling operations can be by 
pumping overboard as a slurry or by dewatering and storage on board a 
submersible for dumping elsewhere. 

FIG. 21. Section of Tunnel Wall. Driven in grouted dolomite 
breccia that has failed after a number of pressure cycles to 
520 psi (Ruby Hill). 


NOTS TP kl62 

This section of the report has consisted of a consideration of the' 
problems of sea- floor access. Methods of access have been outlined that 
are feasible and that rely entirely on existing methods and equipment. 
Cost estimating for sea- floor access based upon shaft and tunnels from 
land is fairly precise, and the costs are no different than those 
encountered in everyday mining practice within the raw material industry. 
The cost of sea- floor access directly from within or on top of the sea 
above is more difficult to estimate since the method has not actually 
been tried as a single integrated operation although each of the requisite 
steps has been conducted at one time or another by industry. The cost of 
access directly into the sea floor, including the lock tube and a raisable 
access tube is not believed to be greater than twice the cost of the com- 
parable shaft on land, that is, a direct sea-floor access system will be 
in the k to 8 million dollar price range, exclusive of the cost of con- 
structing the boring barge or platform which may be leased or which may 
be in hand prior to the inception of any single Rock- Site- type project. 

With this price tag, installations over 1 to 2 miles from shore can 
be more cheaply installed from Rock-Site entry locks on a cost- of -hole 
basis. An over-all system cost analysis that includes costs for men and 
materials, the cost of life support, and a risk factor for direct access 
(which is untried for some given area of sea- floor rock mass) will require 
that installations be several miles from shore before direct access from 
the sea floor becomes competitive with shore-based tunnel and shaft-access 
systems • 

Shaft sizes can range from a minimum for manned access of 2k inches in 
diameter to about 16 feet in diameter. A shaft size initially of 5 to 
8 feet in diameter has been selected as permitting the installations of 
quite large equipment including a disassembled 5-Mwe reactor, an assembled 
500-kilowatt-electrical-(kwe) reactor (which may be in several discrete 
packages), and a disassembled tunnel boring machine. The potential trade- 
offs between bit size, bit weight, available power, and available time 
have already been mentioned, and these considerations can then be mixed 
with the consideration of minimum possible imported part size to yield a 
shaft-size decision for a specific site. 


Merely putting a man into the sea floor inside of a lock tube has 
relatively little to recommend it except perhaps as a means of repairing 
and installing equipn^nt that otherwise operates unattended. Manned sea- 
floor installation requires room for the performance of useful tasks, for 
supply storage, for crew and family accommodations, for recreation 
facilities, for power, for life-support equipment, and for pumping 
installations . 


NOTS TP kl62 

Power in existing undersea mines today is usually compressed air, 
electricity, or diesel engines. Electricity and compressed air are 
certainly the best for fully submerged undersea operations as they do not 
in themselves contribute to the life support or ventilation burden when 
used in confined spaces. 

During the establishment of an initial horizontal working space, as 
during the initial access boring operations, power and life-support gases 
must be provided from the outside. Power can be from shipboard, from a 
temporary platform, from an anchored barge, or from a bottom-sitting 
power package adjacent to the lock tube. Life-support gases will con- 
tinue to be obtained from the supply and power boat if a submersible is 
used, or from a snorkel-type tube to the surface if the surface is free 
of obstructions and not too distant, or can be produced by means of elec- 
trolysis. As a matter of fact, the use of snorkel tubes to the surface 
allows the use of cheap, off-the-shelf internal combustion generating 
equipment in bottom-sitting power packages or within the sea-floor 
installation itself. As a general rough estimate, power needs during 
access shaft boring and the initial, working space establishment will be 
500 kwe. A large pumping load will require an upward adjustment of this 
figure, suggesting for such installations the use of two or more reactors 
as a source of power. 

Given power, air, and crew access, the bottom of the lock tube is 
opened and boring continued on downward into the sea floor. Waste rock 
or cuttings are slurried and pumped overboard. Boring, being noncyclic 
and free of atmospheric pollution can continue on a round-the-clock basis 
even though the lock tube may be a little cramped and crowded initially. 
The author has worked inside of a drill hole 56 inches in diameter (but 
admittedly prefers a larger drill hole when possible) and has done 
extensive work inside of a kk- inch-diameter opening. 

Once an adequate depth of rock cover exists overhead, between the 
elevation of the desired horizontal openings and the sea floor, conven- 
tional drilling and light blasting or else chipping and boring combined 
can open out a lateral room with sufficient horizontal floor space to 
permit the installation of pumps, life-support gas generation equipment 
(if desired), and the initial in situ power p\ant of one or more 500-kwe- 
size nuclear reactor plants. This equipment will now free the installa- 
tion from surface or shipboard support save for spare parts, supplies, 
and crew changes. The actual size of the initial power package needed - 
within the sea floor will depend on the type of life-support system used, 
the intended rate of advance both vertically downward and laterally at 
the main working level, and on the anticipated leakage rate or pumping 
load. Nuclear power packages in increments of 500 kwe are of a size that 
will fit within the 5- to 8- foot lock- tube diameters anticipated. 
Furthermore, air-breathing installations can be used for life support in 
shallower installations through the use of snorkeling systems that con- 
sist of tubes to the surface, presuming the air-water interface to be 



When the vertical access shaft reaches some desired depth, say 500 to 
1,000 feet below the sea floor, the next step in establishing a useful 
Rock-Site installation is to construct a permanent working and living 
complex. This complex will have crew and family quarters, recreation 
facilities, conmunity facilities", "?h« main power plant, and life systems 
plus access tunnels to laboratory spaces, supply dumps, and to weapon and 
sonar sites, major-sized vehicle locks or to other installations, depend- 
ing on the intended uses of the Rock-Site installation. 

The main operating level should be constructed by boring since this 
procedure yields a strong, smooth tunnel and places no burden on the 
ventilation system. Using boring methods, the main operating complex can 
be a series of parallel rooms, a long strung out linear array, or perhaps 
best, a spiral that is then cut by a series of "radial" access tunnels. 
Accurate spiral boring is within the guidance capability of present-day 
boring machines . 

Excavation costs for the main portion of the installation will be no 
different than for ordinary mining operations in a comparable rock type. 
Life supoort and power costs will vary greatly, depending on the type of 
source employed. Air-breathing installations drawing air from the water 
surface will be cheap compared to the use of reactors and self-contained, 
life-support systems, of the tyve used today on submarines, but the 
latter can be used in deep water or in areas where the water-air interface 
is inaccessible. 

Reactor costs, for the main operating power in large installations, 
vary strongly depending on whether you buy the first model or a later 
edition, and on whether or not the seller thinks a continuing market 
will exist. Thus a 5-Mwe installation, small enough to transport through 
an 8- foot lock tube (or a little less) will for the first model cost 
between 15 and 20 million dollars installed. These reactors will be 
cooled by circulating sea water using convective or force circulation 
systems or by the use of sump water resulting from installation leakage, 
prior to its ejection to the sea floor. 

In this section of the presentation, the working space portion of 
establishing undersea bases has been presented. Once beneath- the-sea- 
floor access is achieved, through either a shaft and tunnel from land or 
through a lock tube in the sea floor, all operations within the sea- floor 
bedrock itself are identical to present-day routine industrial activities 
save for the life-support gas generation and the hydraulic ejection of 
waste rock to the sea floor, though these two are demonstrable proven 
processes. Costs for working space construction will vary with the rock 
conditions . Tunnel costs of $300 per foot will cover present-day boring 
operations, some of which are closer to $200 per foot in even fairly 
strong sandstones. Costs can run to as high as $1,000 per foor for 
tunnels driven in very weak porous rocks with high water pressures and 
very high flow rates, requiring extensive consolidation and cementation. 


NOTS TP 4162 

An estimate of the cost of the fully isolated installation shown in 
Fig. 22 is 25 to 50 million dollars. This installation includes a 5-Mwe 
power supply, and as shown has a submersible vehicle lock for transport 
and deep-sea explorational purposes, and a glass observation dome 
(Ref. 92 and 93)- 

FIG. 22. Fully Isolated Rock-Site Installation. Comprised of 
an initial lock tube, and access shaft, and initial life sup- 
port and power chamber, reactor chamber, drill holes to the 
sea floor for reactor coolant circulation, working and living 
space, a glass-domed observation tower, and a vehicle lock 
with associated sumps. 


NOTS TP 1*162 


As a matter of technical interest, going out into the sea water from 
inside the sea floor is much simpler than going into the sea floor from 
the water. The rationale for this statement is simple. Drilling of a 
large diameter hole for lock- tube emplacement from the sea- water side of 
the bottom is a problem involving limited power, working room, and bit 
load. When drilling from within, be the drilling horizontal to vertical 
in aspect, there will be no shortage of power since the main station 
power plant can be utilized and there will be no shortage of bit load 
since hydraulic jack or ram- type feed systems can be used. Leakage during 
and after the bit breakthrough to the water can be controlled by oil-well- 
type blowout preventers. In the case of very large vertical drill holes, 
as with horizontal locks, the entire boring machine can be run flooded 
to sea-water ambient conditions during the final breakthrough phases of 
the lock-boring operation. 

Lock- tube emplacement in a hole drilled from inside can be from the 
outside or from the inside. In the latter case, there are several prac- 
tical options. The lock tube can follow the drill as a part of the string 
of tools or it can be pushed into position after the drill has been 
retracted into a sump. All large, especially multiple pass drilled lock 
tubes, can with present technology be most easily bored from within the 
sea- floor rook mass. With large boring equipment, especially when oper- 
ated flooded, there is no present technologic reason why locks of a size 
to accept large submersibles cannot be constructed close to the sea floor, 
and then have the covering rock mass removed by a combination of boring 
and gentle explosives techniques such as presplit and smooth wall blasting 
(Ref. 9k and 95). 


As soon as someone proposes to do something differently, a flurry of 
argument breaks forth as to "why," and "what good is it," and "obviously, 
it is impossible or it would have been done already." These discussions 
are healthy for all concerned as they take some of the shine off of new 
ideas and they get other persons besides the original idea-formers 
involved in contributing thoughts, problems, and solutions in support of 
the original concept. 

As a government project, compared for example with many missile and 
space programs, the Rock-Site concept of establishing permanent undersea 
installations does not appear to be highly expensive. Gome of the advan- 
tages of the Rock-Site method of sea- floor occupation over other types of 
sea-floor access and utilization are worth a specific mention. When 


NOTS TP kl62 

compared with barges and platforms per se, the Rock-Site method of in- 
the-sea-floor installation establishment offers the following: 

1. Weather and waves are not a hazard. 

2. All equipment is accessible to ordinary technicians and laborers. 

3. The working volume or space can be expanded cheaply to meet 
future operational needs once the original installation is achieved. 

k. The Rock-Site installations can be placed at great depth beneath 
the sea floor; their openings can be numerous and scattered; and access 
to the installation is absolutely controlled by the base occupants. If 
desired, reactor waste heat can be internally stored or dissipated into 
the earth by means of fluid injection into deep, permeable zones in order 
to prevent an undesirable heating of the surrounding water. With near 
the sea- floor installations, some heat will be needed to maintain a com- 
fortable installation, since rocks near the sea floor will probably be 
at or near the deep ocean temperature of only a degree of two centigrade. 

5. Surface hazards such as accidental ship-caused damage and floating 
hazards are avoided. 

With respect to bottom-squatting structures, Rock-Site installations show 
the following advantages: 

1. Water mass "weather" is not a problem for Rock-Site installations, 
but people working on the sea floor vill have to contend with currents, 
shear on structures, and numerous other water "weather" problems. 

2. The working volume is "thin-skinned," and can be quite large, 
avoiding the tendency for "thin-skinned" structures to suffer catastrophic 
flooding and high leakage rates given even minor structural damage . A 
leak developing through several hundred feet of rock can be grouted from 
within by means of drill holes, a leak developing through an inch or two 
of steel is apt to be hard to control, especially from inside. 

3. Damage from accidental ship activities is far less. 

k. All facilities and equipment (save the outside of the lock-tube 
door, are accessible at all times to ordinary technicians and laborers). 

5. Damage from drift ice and ice-flow groundings is avoided. 

6. Structures within the sea floor can easily be made large and com- 
fortable enough to permit the quartering of crews and their families for 
extended periods of time, and can be made large enough to serve as supply 
and repair depots for large submersibles . 


NCTS TP kite 


The selection of a suitable location for a Rock-Site installation will 
be based on the following general considerations: 

1. Politico-economic - The installation must be at a geographic 
location of some value to the nation or company that constructs it. 

2. Geologic - The type of bottom, depth of mud, and anticipated rock 
types below the sea floor must be of a type that will allow Rock-Site 
activities . 

3. Topographic - The shape of the sea floor must permit the type of 
locks or other desired installations. 

Politico-economic considerations will outline the general geographic 
regions in which Rock-Site undersea installations might be of benefit. 
As an example, rather than establish major nuclear power supplies on land 
in highly unstable emerging nations, such stations could be put offshore 
where they would be free from damage during periods of political upheaval. 

Geologic considerations require that the bottom have a competent bed- 
rock mass within an attainable distance of the sea floor. If the instal- 
lation is to be extensive, a large mass of rock that is free of serious 
leakage problems will be needed. Almost any type of rock can be used for 
Rock-Site installations but a rock strong enough to be self-supporting 
and low enough in combined permeability and porosity to preclude large 
water flows is desired. A favorable rock mass can be at any attitude, 
but a horizontally oriented installation appears cheapest and easiest to 

Rock masses free of fractures and faults need not be present. Many 
undersea fault zones have been found to be free of leakage due to the 
sealing action of the crushed rock (gouge) filling the fracture zone. 
Indeed, some undersea coal mines for years have practiced long wall 
mining during which the sea floor is allowed to collapse, relying on 
intervening shale horizons to provide a continuing seal against the 
waters above. Rock masses with overlying or inte.rlayered shales and muds 
are least apt to leak. Rocks of all types can be protected from leakage 
by coverings of bottom mud or ooze. Complex fault systems with their 
attendant gouge zones can protect large blocks of otherwise highly perme- 
able rock from leakage although water statically stored in such a rock 
mass can be a temporary problem. Volcanics, especially blocky and high 
vesicular lavas can be protected from leakage by interflow beds of tuff- 
aceous material or by alteration along joints and flow planes. Any type 
of rock strong enough to stand unsupported can be used for a Rock-Site 
installation as can many rocks requiring grouting consolidation and even 
extensive timbering or other artificial support. 


NOTS TP kl62 

Topographic considerations dictate the type of entry locks and the 
depth to which installations must be placed beneath the point of initial 
sea- floor entry. A horizontal submersible entry lock will require a 
steep, preferably vertical, canyon wall or slope. An observation tower 
may require a broad flat plain or a prominent hill such as a seamount. 
The terrain should match the needs of the installation as much as possible. 


The industrial implications of a successful Rock-Site installation 
will be far reaching and of great national importance. Rock-Site instal- 
lations can provide permanent petroleum drilling sites not only on the 
deep continental shelf but in areas beneath both intermittent and perma- 
nent ice cover. These same type of drilling sites can serve for the pro- 
duction of geothermal steam and brine, enabling in the near future the 
exploitation of deposits such as those now suspected in the floor of the 
Red Sea (Ref. 96). 

For hard minerals production, Rock-Site-in-the-sea-floor installations 
will enable undersea mining to be conducted beneath a considerable depth 
of water and great distances offshore. By the use of observation towers 
plus scrapers and dewatering locks, Rock-Site mining installations will 
enable the mining of sea-floor nodules and offshore placer deposits with- 
out the constant hazards of wind and wave damage that are inherent in 
surface-ship-type operations. 

Rock-Site-concept utilization converts any coastline to a deep water 
port facility capable of handling petroleum products and mineral slurries 
to and from surface ships by means of hoses with present technology and 
if submersible cargo vessels eventually result, other less easily trans- 
portable cargoes can be handled as well. 

Rock-Site installations will make ideal offshore nuclear-power-plant 
sites using convective sea-water cooling, and can provide the working 
space a^d power needed for undersea booster pumping plants for pipeline 
systems paralleling a coastline. 


Using only the tools and techniques to todav's raw materials industry, 
manned installations of a large size containing a one-atmosphere shirt- 
sleeve environment can be built today on much of the world's continental 
shelf region. With a modest extension in undersea vehicle capabilities, 
large manned installations can be established at almost any location on 
the continental slopes, the deep-ocean floor, and on seamounts and ridges. 


NOTS TP kl62 


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Houston, Tex., Brown and Root, May 1966. 

84. Clearinghouse for Federal Scientific and Technical Information. 
Froject Mohole, A Report Biblioeraphy . Springfield, Va., CFST, 
June 1965. (CFST 1.) 

85. Niblock, Robert W. "Developers Outline Undersea Research Vehicle 
Expectations," MISSILES ROCKETS, Vol. 18, No. 16 (l8 April I966), 
p. 31. 

86. Anonymous. "Lockheed Choice to Build First DSRV, " MISSILES ROCKETS, 
Vol. 18, No. 16 (18 April 1966), p. 12. 

87. Southwest Research Institute. Underwater Research Vehicles, by 
R. C. DeHart. Houston, Tex., Southwest Research Institute, 1964. 



88. Knoll, Denys W. "Oceanography and Naval Warfare," ASTRONAUTICS 
AERONAUTICS, Vol. 3, No. 7 (July 1965), PP- IO6-I3. 

89- Naval Ordnance Test Station. Undersea Geothermal Deposits—Their 
Selection and Potential Use, by C. F. Austin. China Lake, Calif., 
NOTS, July 1966. (NOTS TP 4122.) 

90. Bator, George T., and Dr. David T. Snow. "Grouting," QUART COLO 
SCHOOL MINES, Vol. 6l, No. 2 (April 1966), pp. 128- 39- 

91. Dellinger, Thomas B., and L. D. Boughton. "Unique Materials Mix 
Used to Seal Large Diameter Casing in Borehole," ENG MINING J, 
Vol. 166, No. 6 (June 1965), pp. 114-18. 

92. Perry, H. A. "The Argument for Glass Submersibles, " UNDERSEA TECH, 
September 1964, p. 31. 

93. Alexander, Tom. "Ocean Engineering Takes the Plunge," FORTUNE, 
Vol. 73, No. 6 (June 1966), pp. 144-49. 

94. Langefors, N., and B. Kihlstrom. The Modern Technique of Rock 
Blasting. New York, Wiley, 1963. 

95. Paine, R. S., D. K. Holmes, and H. E. Clark. "Controlling Overbreak 
by Pre-Splitting, " in International Mining Symposium Mining Research, 
University of Missouri, 196l. New York, Pergamon, 1962. 

Pp. 179-210. 

96. Austin, Carl F. "Undersea Drilling and Production Sites for 
Petroleum," (in preparation) . 



Security Classification 


(Security clmaaiticmtian ot tittt, body of mbatrmct mnd $ndo*mg annotation mull 6* tnfrtd whan Ihm ova tat I report t« clmmnitttd) 
G IN A T IN G ACTIVITY (Coroormta author) \2m REPORT tCCuMiTv c laiiificati 

I ORIGINATIN G ACTIVITY (Corpormta author) 

U.S. Naval Ordnance Test Station 
China Lake, California 93555 

2a REPORT IICuNiTr classification 


2 6 onouf 



4 DESCRIPTIVE NOTES (Typt ot wport and Inc/u.iv. dtitt) 

Research Report 

S AUTHORCS; O-aif nam*, flral nam. In/l/aU 

Austin, C. F. 


October 1966 

7« TOTAL MO OF Pltll 

7b NO OF >IFI 




NOTS TP 4l62 

WEFTASK R361-00 OOO/2I6-I/FOO8-98-K 16 g7, H «J 0 ^'°" T N< * 5 > Mnyolharnumk.,. Mar may fc. a..l»*.«( 







Director of Laboratory Programs 
Naval Material Command 
Washington, D. C. 20j6o 


Large undersea installations vith a shirt-sleeve environment have existed under 
the continental shelves for many decades. The technology now exists, using off- 
the-shelf petroleum, mining, submarine, and nuclear equipment, to establish 
permanent manned installations within the sea floor that do not have any air 
umbilical or other connection with the land or water surface, yet maintain a normal 
one-atmosphere environment within. This presentation briefly reviews the past and 
present ln-the-sea-floor mineral industry. The methods presently practical for 
direct access to and from permanent in- the-sea- floor installations are outlined, 
and the specific operations and types of tools indicated. Initial power requirement 
and cost estimates are included. 



1 JAN 64 




Security Classification 


Security Classification 




Rock-Site concept 
Manned undersea structures 
In-the-sea-floor mineral industry 
In-the-sea- floor installations, power requirements, 
access methods, operation, and tools 


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Security Classification