Inside a Nevada family's underwater fort

It's amazing what you can accomplish when your dad's garage is full of useful parts and pieces, and your whole family is certified as scuba divers.

BB reader SaltySamaritan, aka Jordan Needham, dropped us a line via Submitterator to show off the dome-shaped, oxygen-filled underwater fort—nicknamed The Bubble Room—that he and his family built at the bottom of a Nevada mountain lake.

Made from an air-filled vinyl bladder, held in place by an intricate system of cabling connected to an octagonal frame of metal pipe, this amazing hideaway had me at, "Blurple burblup." I had to know more. Luckily, Jordan was kind enough to answer a few questions about how his family built The Bubble Room, the rules they follow to keep it safe and their plans for selling a commercial version.

Maggie: Where did this idea come from?

Jordan: I was in the shower, one day about four years ago, and I was just thinking about how cool it would be to have an underwater "fort" I wasn't sure how to make it happen at the time, but that's when the brainstorming started. So I called my brother Logan and we started talking about ways to do it.
Our original version was just a net stretched tight and secured to four rocks—one at each corner—and then a piece of plastic pulled under the net and an air bubble released into it from a scuba tank. Because the air is displacing water, the upward force of the bubble is equivalent to the downward force of the same volume of water on shore. So a bubble 10 cubic feet in volume would be basically 74.8 "gallons" of air at 8.35 lbs per gallon, which means a 10 cu. ft. bubble has 624.58 pounds of upward force! Pretty substantial.

Needless to say, by the time the bubble under the net was about the size of an average ice chest it had stretched almost 20 feet up to the surface then the net broke.

Maggie: How did you make the working version?

Jordan: So, I started thinking about how to spread the load out around the perimeter of the net, and a better way to anchor it. That's where the idea for the "ring" came from. We no way to bend the super heavy pipe we had so I cut it and welded it back together into an octagon.
The ring is attached at three spots with stainless steel cable to three giant rocks, and we wrapped the cable around the bottom of the rocks and secured it back to itself with cable clamps. The ring is galvanized steel with 1/4 inch wall thickness. I also coated it inside and out with "sand" colored Rustoleum.

The ring, itself, is now a semi permanent fixture of the lake and has been down there for about three years now.

To make the rest, we draped a piece of netting over a small dome tent and threaded a piece of climbing webbing through the bottom of it. We then attached loops of parachute cord to the webbing that were long enough to wrap around the ring and hook to a little nub welded every six inches along the top of the ring.

The dome is vinyl from the local fabric store. We switched from plastic because the plastic was kind of "cloudy" and the vinyl is optically clear. When The Bubble Room is not in use we take the net and vinyl with us and it is just a metal ring sitting on the lake bed. It takes one person about 15 minutes to attach the net and vinyl and fill it with air.

All the materials except for the vinyl where free!

Maggie: Where is this thing set up?

Jordan:Well, I live in Reno NV, and let's just say it's in a local alpine lake. Even though it isn't hurting the lake at all and there are entire trains in the same lake, there are some pretty fanatical people "keeping the lake blue" and they probably would have a problem with my little addition.
When we set it up, it is usually an all-day event. We have had the bladder and net attached and it full of air for eight hour stretches before. But, like I said, when we leave we take the net and bladder with us and it's just a ring sitting on the sand. It would only be noticeable if you happened to snorkel right over the top of it.

Maggie: Do local conditions make a difference on its stability?

Jordan: When it's super windy you can feel the surge of the water, even 20 feet down. With every wave that goes over the top, a little temporary cloud forms in the bubble, which is pretty cool. You get the same effect when you squeeze a two liter soda bottle that has a couple inches of water in it.

Maggie: How do you make this work as a fort? You have to refill the air occasionally, correct?

Jordan: Ya, we use a standard scuba tank to fill it, and replenish the air once it gets thin. A standard 68 cu. in. scuba tank will fill it almost twice. There are obvious safety concern with being in a bubble 20 feet down and all the oxygen being used up, so we try and play it safe—buddy system at all times, and when the air starts to get even a little thin we empty most of it and fill 'er back up with fresh air. [You can watch a video of "used" air being forced out of the bubble and up to the surface. --M]

Also, the air in the bubble is 1.5 times more dense than the air on the surface, because of the additional pressure, so it is a must to exhale on the way out of the bubble to the surface. The one lung full of air you breathe in down there would expand to 1.5 lung fulls on the way up, and ruptured lungs would ruin anybody's day.

Jordan: One last thing, I hold a provisional patent on the idea and have adapted a version to be installed in a private pool, with a fresh air pump constantly feeding it with more air than the occupants could use. Some day I would like to try and make a little business out of it, and go around installing them in people's pools. You can't tell me Snoop Dog or a mob boss wouldn't want to have a little Bubble Room of their own!

Many thanks to Jordan and his family! Great work, guys. I am jealous of both your fort and your crystal-clear waters.


  1. All my life I fantasized about secret underwater rooms. I envisioned a pool with a passage to a chamber that isn’t visible from above water. Now I want a bubble room of my very own!

  2. This is awesome, I would love to have something like this here, but permanent or semipermanent structures like this is illegal according national law where I live.

      1. I am not intimately knowledgable in Swedish law (what minor legal education I have is limited to criminal law), but I have some experience in this area because I have lived in a municipality that have run afoul of these laws more than once. Almost every time anyone runs afoul of the law in this context it makes the national news. Probably because the Freedom To Roam is something we hold very dearly, perhaps more dearly than our Freedom Of Speech. :)

        The Freedom To Roam is part of our constitution and laws such as (loosely translated) the Beach Protection Laws and Environmental Protection Laws are quite detailed in what you can and can not build or modify (anything) close to the waterfront, or in the water for that matter.

        Any building or property within 100 metres (even 300 metres for some lakes) of the waterline have to get a license to be built or modified via an Environmental court decision (and sometimes with the involvement of the environmental protection agency).

        If you want to build or modify something in the water, anything ranging from piers, rocks, even logs used to prevent erosion et.c., additional legal issues have to be cleared. For example boat owners should be able to expect that their nautical charts are correct when moored and the Navy sometimes want their say in the matter.

        Permits are not as uncommon as I maybe make it seem like, but the law is strictly enforced. Only a few years ago the county where I lived had to pay just short of a million dollars and pay for the removal of the rocks they placed along a ~150 metre waterline to prevent excessive erosion. Rulings like this are common.

        Not to mention that two decades ago a third (exaggerated) of our coastline was filled with mines, metallic nets and sensors to protect us against Soviet subs. Our Navy did quite some dynamite fishing during the Cold War, any underwater fortresses would have been a bad idea at the time. ;)

  3. Actually, this is just a cover story. Really, it was built by an eccentric millionaire who wanted to create a Randian paradise, where men are entitled the sweat on their brow, and where scientists can be free to do their experiments in peace. I wonder how that’ll turn out?

  4. Interesting that he would cite mob bosses as potential customers. I’m not sure they would be the first clients *I* would want.

    Also, I bet Snoop Dogg’s installation would need to have a chimney.

  5. I’m not if that’s really awesome or stupidly dangerous. I’ll get back to you when I figure it out.

    1. I’m Logan (the brother in the article) and it’s actually a little of both. It seems to me that most “extreme sports” are both amazing and dangerous. This is dangerous, but LOTS and LOTS of thought, math, planning and testing have gone into it. If you’re not stupid being safe in the Bubble Room is easy.

  6. @Maggie, that should be oxygen^H^H^H^H^H^Hair-filled.

    @Niklas, it’s only illegal if they catch you at it. Sounds like that’s why the mad geniuses who built the thing dismantle it when not in use.

    Also, regarding refilling the air occasionally, I believe that over time, if they left it alone the O2 would replenish itself and the CO2 would scrub itself out, through diffusion to/from the water. This same principle works with air pockets trapped in underground bodies of water. I have no idea how fast the process operates, though. Apparently slower than a couple of swimmers can use up the breathing gas in their fort, too bad.

  7. Where does the fresh oxygen come from? If that’s just a bubble of air, and fellas go down there breathin’ up a storm, then won’t that deplete the oxygen? IS THERE A DEADLY FLAW IN THE NATURE OF THE UNDERWATER STRUCTURE?

    1. There are obvious safety concern with being in a bubble 20 feet down and all the oxygen being used up, so we try and play it safe—buddy system at all times, and when the air starts to get even a little thin we empty most of it and fill ‘er back up with fresh air. [You can watch a video of “used” air being forced out of the bubble and up to the surface. –M]

    2. Only deadly flaw is your inability to read the article.

      They’re licensed divers, they know what they’re doing. Which is probably the only situation something like this could be used.. marketing it and selling it to people who don’t respect the dangers is just gonna set up a new round of darwin awards.

  8. Yes, yes, this is all very cool, but the real question on everyone’s mind is: how does the second guy’s mustachio survive the trip underwater?!

  9. I think it’s inaccurate to call this a “Nevada mountain lake” when the majority of its surface area is in California. Small point, but Cali rules and Nevada doesn’t.

  10. I like the half-ass attempt to keep the location secret. Hmm, huge alpine lake in the desert state of Nevada near Reno with crystal blue water and an strict governing agency? Gee, I wonder!

  11. ah i used to love the canoe trips of my boy scout days, where 5 or 6 of us would invert a canoe and go walking underwater.

    for some reason, the novelty of the activity made everyone just start laughing incessantly as soon as we were fully submerged and on our way. so here we are, a line of teenage boys, walking on the bottom of a river, all laughing maniacally in a very effective echo chamber. a surreal experience if ever there was one.

    1. ah i used to love the canoe trips of my boy scout days, where 5 or 6 of us would invert a canoe and go walking underwater.

      Are you sure that the canoe wasn’t just floating along the top of the river and you couldn’t guage your own depth effectively since you were underneath? An air-filled canoe would be a pretty difficult thing to hold underwater since you’d have to exert the same force that would be required to carry a water-filled canoe on land.

      That scene from “Pirates of the Caribbean” always bothered me, even in a movie filled with supernatural monsters. The Mythbusters apparently agreed:

    2. Hey man, I hate to be a buzzkill but I doubt you were ever fully submerged, that is unless each of you weighed a little over 270 pounds _under water_. That scene in Pirates of The Caribbean where they walk under water with the rowboat is totally impossible.

      Again the force of lift of air underwater is equal to the weight of the water being displaced. So assuming your canoe is 12′ (probably bigger if you had 6 people in it) then it’s displacement (the volume of air that the canoe takes up) would be approximately 26 cubic feet. Fresh water weighs 62.428 pounds per cubic foot. That means that the “submerged” canoe would have 1,623.13 pounds of lift (upward force). Most humans are naturally positively buoyant so that just adds to the difficulty of submerging the canoe.

      Although I have done the same thing and it is truly a blast! Even just swimming around hanging from the echoey, oddly lit canoe is certainly entertaining.

      On a similar note, as I recall the volume of our “half sphere” of air is approximately 134 cubic feet, which comes out to about 8,365.36 pounds of lift. That’s 3.79 metric tons. Yes, it’s a lot – that’s why we used thumb-sized stainless steel cable to anchor it.

  12. Ron Perlman hangs out in underwater air bubbles with questionable men with handlebar mustaches?
    Is this why Hellboy 3 isn’t out yet?
    Damn you air bubble!
    And damn you too questionable men with handlebar mustaches!

  13. @tdberg don’t be jealous, it’s not becoming. : P

    also, those “pretty fanatical people who keep the lake blue” are responsible for your project looking as cool as it does. so, you’re welcome.

    it wouldn’t be nearly as cool if it was a pitch black bubble under water, instead of the pool-blue it is.

    1. Except, of course, those “pretty fanatical people” are a corruptocracy. TRPA, assuming for a moment this is Tahoe and not some other alpine like with a very similar shoreline, approve crap like the Heavenly jumboshopapocolypse thing at Stateline, but shit out restraining orders and fines if someone deigns to repair a 50-year old dock.

      1. Well Uncle Geo, you misunderstood, those people are fanatical about keeping the lake blue, and I happen to be one of them. Some of them are also over fanatical about enforcing laws that I feel take away my God given rights as a human being on this planet. I have never left the lake with less than a bag or two of other peoples trash, most of which I collect directly out of the lake itself. And yes I am special my elementary school teachers used to tell me all the time, and as long as “what ever the hell I want” isn’t hurting anybody or making any of our natural recourses less enjoyable for anybody else I don’t really care what the law says. If hundreds of people set up their own projects that in no way interfered with anybody’s ability to enjoy the lake, then more power to them.

        1. Oh come on – when hundreds of people are setting up underwater bubble forts, then we can talk about a ban. It’s like many things – when only a few people do it, it is actually not harmful. When many people do it, it is. One person whale watching from a small boat is a curiosity to the whale, probably a welcome distraction from the journey. 1000 boats harassing whales can cause them to be fatigued and die. Scale matters.

          Right now, this is a very limited instance, they are handling it responsibly, and it is not polluting the lake.

          And it’s freakin awesome. Nice work, brothers…

  14. I won’t out your location, though it’s pretty obvious.

    You characterize the folks who want to keep this jewel of a lake blue as fanatics, but to me it’s pretty fanatical to decide you are special and can just do whatever the hell you want. What if a hundred people set up their own pet projects in it. Thing’d be a friggin garbage pit.

    bassplayinben hits the nail on the head -the lake would not be the nice clear blue that enabled your promotional video if people did not care enough to protect it.

    And Nevada is way cooler. Sorry.

  15. Beva -dude! You outed him!

    Just to be clear, a corrupt group is no reason to not protect the lake.

  16. @Maggie: To be nit-picky, it’s not an “oxygen-filled underwater fort,” it’s an “air-filled underwater fort.”

    The contents of scuba tanks are, like the air, mostly Nitrogen and only about 20% Oxygen. Standing in a compressed bubble of pure Oxygen would probably get one pretty high pretty quick.

    1. Not only would people get high in a bubble of pure oxygen, the human body is pretty easily flammable in such an environment! (This happened to Apollo astronauts during a ground exercise.) I suspect this fact is used by criminal to get rid of bodies.

  17. Great job guys, that was very fun to watch, I want an underwater fort too! :)

    I don’t know how patentable this idea is though, you are talking about a Diving Bell. Aristotle was the first w/ this idea. I know they have been employed in oyster diving long before scuba was possible.

    1. Given that it’s now in the public domain it’s not patentable at all – unless they already had an application in before making the video?

      1. “Given that it’s now in the public domain it’s not patentable at all – unless they already had an application in before making the video?”

        Yes, patents on this along with a wide spectrum of possible attributes of this design have been taken care of long ago. Thank you for your concern.

  18. why they don’t simply use a water pump to pump out the air from the bubble ? even a bicycle pump, it’s simply matter of putting the tube outside the bubble

    neat anyway! now, try with helium !! moar fun

  19. This would be an awesome plot device for some sort of action movie. Your team of James Bond-ian people use a camouflage one to move en mass down a river and infiltrate the enemy territory, or use same to escape evil regime, etc.
    One rule, though, judging by the echo, no screamers allowed.

  20. That was not clear in the interview and your reply seem to say you prefer the lake blue as long as you get to decide what’s best for it.

    I’m glad you keep that beautiful place clean. It is a wonderful place. The pigs who leave the trash are the real scofflaws.

    There’s a gray area here- the fort seems pretty benign but one man’s underwater fort is anothers fear that too many people chasing their own interests will join in and trash the place.

    1. There are lots of great ways to protect the Lake, don’t get me wrong — and you probably need an organization to do it — but TRPA has proved itself to be a corrupt, rent-seeking, non-responsive hold-up artist.

      I’ve been going to Lake Tahoe 8-15 times a year for 40 years. I yield to no one in my commitment to preserving it, but TRPA demands things from people who can pay them (i.e., casinos or the occasional large development (like those relatively new condos in Kings Beach-ish) and systematically screws individual property owners who just want to preserve things they have had in their families for 50 or 60 or 70 years. If you want a blanket prohibition on development, and let stuff slowly rot away, take it by eminent domain — pay for it — and do so. But please don’t tell me TRPA, as currently constituted is anything other than a pay-to-play scheme to enrich TRPA’s preferred developers, patrons, and hangers on.

  21. Licensed divers? Ain’t no such thing, at least not for recreational scuba. You get certified. You take a class and do some exercises and you take a test that has both a written and in-the-water component. If you pass, dive shops will fill your tanks and dive operators will accept you as a customer.

    There are tiers of certification and there are a number of different groups (PADI, NAUI etc…) that grant the certifications. You can just take a basic introductory class or you can really throw yourself into dive education and work your way up to being a dive instructor and/or learn specialties like cave/wreck diving, ice diving, the use of various gas combos, deeper sorts of diving, rebreather diving etc…

    You’ve got your candy-ass resort divers like me (Warm, clear water please. And snacks waiting at the top of the dive ladder!). You’ve got your hardcore wreckie-techies who will risk their lives doing multiple hull penetrations in gawdoffal conditions to bring up some treasure, some piece of rubbish that, in the words of a friend of mine, if you or I saw it by the side of the road, we’d just move it so it wouldn’t puncture a tire. And let’s not forget the most badass of all, the folks who don’t need no steenkink tank, the ones who just hold their breath and go down, down, down into the blue.

    Some people are excellent divers even though they have only taken the basic course. Some folks take lots of classes but are a bit lacking in various areas such as common sense or maturity or overall smarts, or, sometimes, luck.

    But darlin’, there are many, many certified divers who seem to have no idea what they are doing. On every large group/cattle boat dive you will see some examples of holy-shit-I-can’t-believe-they-did-that-and-lived behavior. Only sometimes, they don’t.

    Ah scuba, love it or hate it (and I love it), it is never boring.

    The fort looks neat. Here’s hoping they are smart enough not to get hurt or worse. It is easy to get disoriented under water, to get tangled. I wish them the best.

    I also hope they are responsible enough to dismantle it when they are done with it, or when it starts to show signs of deterioration, and take it out of the lake. Otherwise it is just more garbage in the water, and there’s plenty enough of that already. For that reason, I’m not so thrilled with the idea of a commercial version of the fort. Out in the ocean, it’s all crap for the gyres.

    1. Pipenta beat me to it.

      Don’t get too impressed by the authority of ‘licensed divers’ (although I’m sure these guys know what they’re doing).

      I’ve been diving in Thailand and seen people progress through Open Water PADI certification to Dive master in a single holiday in the calm still warm waters there.

      I have “Advanced” certification (which is basic Open Water certification with a small wank factor) but more than 200 dives under my belt, and I’ve seen my share of divers with higher certification and no idea.

      That said, I haven’t been for a dive for about two years, and the last time I dived I couldn’t remember which way the regs fitted on the tank.

      Amazingly few recreational divers seem to really appreciate that they are wearing a life support system in a hostile environment, and the only thing that makes it even remotely safe is redundancy, which is only acheived with the buddy system. My wife dives too, and when we’re together, its safe. If I get on a boat and get paired up with someone, it’s pot luck.

  22. This is awesome though I have to say, I was (perhaps frivolously) imagining Little Mermaid style furniture made from rocks and sand.

    Additionally, re commentary about the lake and the environmental impact of this: The creators are a family of divers and obviously care about diving. Generally speaking people who spend their free time in nature, respect nature – so I’m sure a lot of care was taken to minimise environmental impact.

    As a diver, he most probably appreciates the hard work of people who are actually protecting the lake which he enjoys. Use of the word “fanatical” is not necessarily a criticism… He is just saying that there are some people out there who would most probably destroy or dismantle his creation if they knew where it was.

    Me? I’d bring a little bottle of nitrous and spike the punch!

  23. Concern Troll
    Diving bell accident?

    looks awsome in the video.

    Captcha PS: Why deny me a post because I don’t have an umlaut key on my keyboard?

  24. I’m looking at the Wikipedia on Oxygen Toxicity – 1.6 bar partial pressure of oxygen, which I’d guess would be close to the pressure in the dome, can cause nerve toxicity, so that’s why pure oxygen would be a no-no!
    This also makes me think of DIY hyperbaric oxygen therapy I’ve seen done on kids with autism – nobody seemed to be monitoring for toxicity!

  25. Oh good! Giant Hefty bags filling up the lakes and shorelines.

    Every one of these things should be required to produce an environmental impact statement.

  26. I know it’s unrealistic of me, but I was expecting something bigger. Something with underwater palaces and electric cars and visiting fish-people with aero-lungs. And a bad part of town where the oppressed sea monkeys work 18 hour days in the oyster factories and plot revolution.

  27. I wonder if this could be built on a much larger scale, allowing for a small ecosystem of plants and insects to live inside.

  28. Ah, Lake Tahoe. And I’m guessing on the East Shore, because people would get damn suspicious elsewhere- too populated. Well, in addition to the sparsity of the trees, and the fact it was called a ‘nevada’ lake. That basically limits it to North shore, East shore, and teensy bit of the South shore. And of those, only east shore isn’t developed like whoa.

    Maybe south of Sand Harbor? Or maybe closer to Zephyr Cove?

    And it’s more than TRPA that’d have their guts for garters for this. I’m pretty sure it’d matter to TERC. And the League to Save Lake Tahoe. And the Sierra Club. Possible even the NTCD.

  29. As a scuba-diver i absolutely loved it! Would fit in well here where we have a tradition of planting Christmasthrees (and pottery on them) & midsummerpoles for traditional dances under water.

  30. Dudes, forget the “small” stuff application like to Snoop Dog, and go for the big time: sell this to the military – potential for covert ops, SEALS, etc. …Camoed with the ocean floor, possible stealth material for the tarp – potentially would give off radar signature no different than underwater rocks, etc. Literally, like a cloak for staging stealthy offshore ops… Would have to find a way to disperse and refill air, though, in a discreet manner. Consult with Q:) Cheers

  31. I think this must be the greatest thing in the entire state of Nevada. Anyone with the ability to perform this construction underwater is obviously a pretty good scuba diver. Beginners have enough trouble using a flashlight or a compass underwater while managing to pay attention to their depth and air, much less work a set of crimpers and maneuver a steel frame around. I’m sure the Heroes of Fun in the video are aware of the safety issues involved in something like this, but in case any non divers are curious, I can offer a basic overview. The big deal with this pile of hotness is that when you are breathing inside this dome, you are breathing pressurized air, it is effectively identical to breathing on scuba gear. The weight of the water around it squeezes the air under the dome. When you are swimming around with scuba gear, the same thing happens, but the pressure is squeezing on your chest. The scuba gear pushes pressurized air into your lungs to let you breathe. Under the dome, the weight of the water around it pushes the air in to your lungs. Therein lies the first danger, pulmonary baro-trauma (torn lung, which I see the mentioned, but not before I bothered to write this). You take a lung full of pressurized air at 15 feet underwater and then start to ascend, as you go up, the pressure decreases, and the air in your lungs starts to expand. If you are not aware of the fact and surface too fast, you can easily tear your lung. If you were snorkeled down to the dome and took a big breath from inside to sustain you on your way up, it would only take a change in depth of a couple of feet to do potentially fatal damage. The other danger, or category of dangers, is that pressurized air messes with your blood gases. I gather that this dome is in about 20 feet of water. At that depth, if they filled it from half of a 68 cubic foot tank, it would be unlikely that a person could stay down long enough to have to worry about getting the bends on the way up. The bends occurs when your blood, under pressure at depth, becomes capable of absorbing more nitrogen than it can at STP, causing to bubble out as your surface and the pressure decreases. The bubble clog your blood vessels and you stroke out. You just wouldn’t absorb enough nitrogen at that depth for that time, but you still need to be aware of it, especially if you are popping in and out of the dome during a longer dive outing. Someone above mentioned oxygen toxicity, another possible blood gas problem. I would agree, if you were breathing pure O2 (partial pressure of 1.0 at the surface) at 20 feet, it would have partial pressure of about 1.6, which would be enough to cause seizures. As long as you treated the done like scuba gear, and counted your time in it as time on your tanks, you should be fine. Of course, Tahoe is way up high, and that skews all the numbers because the surface pressure is lower so…

  32. Just to note that in a sealed environment, it isn’t low levels of oxygen that will kill you but an excess of carbon dioxide. Too much CO2 in the air and the red blood cells can’t get rid of it and make room for oxygen.

  33. worlds most interesting man makes an apperance at 2:16 just thought id point this out if anyone else hasnt done so already…

  34. Guys this construction is extremely dangerous. The skin holding the air inside the bubble can rupture. If this happens the upward force of the bubble won’t hold the ring any more. Instead it will drop to the ground capturing everybody inside the bubble. The webbing will prevent anybody from escaping to the surface unless you have a scuba knife with you.

    I strongly suggest you add at least one upright piece of steel to the ring toward the floor to prevent it from winding up. You should always have a possibility to escape thru a little loophole. It would be sad if anyone of you would be killed.


    1. The skin holding the air inside the bubble can rupture. If this happens the upward force of the bubble won’t hold the ring any more. Instead it will drop to the ground capturing everybody inside the bubble

      That would be terrifying. But I wonder how much pressure that skin is really under. If the bubble is three feet tall at the apex, then the air pressure at the top of the bell would be about 1.5 psi with respect to the water. The taller the bubble is, the greater the pressure differential becomes.

      It doesn’t seem to me that this is going to be much of a danger. They are presumably using the heaviest commonly available vinyl, and while I don’t know the rupture pressure, I know from experience that it is very tough stuff that can handle way more than 1.5 psi.

      I’d put legs on it anyway, and I’d be inclined to keep one of those little mini emergency tanks with me too.

      1. Your right codesuidae, the plastic ripping doesn’t seem like it will be an issue, the first vinyl we used was a pretty heavy gauge but it got folded up wet once, and it got really cloudy. I made another one last minuet the night before a “bubble day”, and they only had the thinner stuff, I think it is 6 mill. I brought the cloudy old vinyl just in case, but after filling the room it was clear that even the 6 mill vinyl was overkill. Just to see what would happen I tried to poke my finger through it towards the bottom edge and couldn’t. I think having the net “back up” the vinyl helps a lot the net is 2″x2″ so there is only 4 sq in spans of vinyl at the max.
        Also you can’t see it in the video but we always have a full scuba tank with two regs on it sitting on the sand under the ring, just in case.
        And the ring itself is easily manageable by one guy with no air lifting it; you can easily lift half of it with one hand. I also carry a dive knife, just in case. We are also super aware of the embolism danger, everybody gets the repeated “if you don’t exhale on the way up YOU WILL DIE”, and the scientific reason behind this lecture, before getting in the water. They get the same shpeal in the room right before they exit. And by “they” I am referring to close friends and family many of which are experienced divers, all of which are sober, responsible over the age of 18, willing and able to follow simple yet highly necessary instruction.

        1. I’m very confident you have choosen the right materials building the bubble and its a pleasure to hear that you guys are responsible and experienced divers. With my comment I wasn’t in doubt you are precautious with what you are doing. Anyway, as experienced divers you know that under water there is no room for errors. Having a knife and spare air with you is always a good idea.
          Still I’d suggest a little modification of the ring for two reasons. By adding a second ring of the same size and shape sitting about 4-5 feet or more apart connected by a few rods, you would always have open spaces around to escape in case of emergency. On the other hand you’ll have more weight keeping the bubble down.
          Regardless have fun and stay save.

  35. The weight of the water will compress the air.

    Try this: Take a garden hose. Have your buddy hold one end on the surface. Take the other end and lay on the bottom of three feet of water. try to breathe. Seriously, just try. You can’t do it.

    At sea level, the air weighs about 14 psi. Every 33 feet of water, doubles the weight (28 psi at 33 feet, 56 psi at 66 feet, 112 psi at 99 feet, you get the idea.) This means that under only 3 feet of water, you must draw with 18 psi of pressure in order to breathe are that is compressed to 14 psi. If the pool is 12 feet deep, you will need nearly 40 psi.

    It takes maybe 5 minutes to inflate my bicycle tire to 15 psi. I don’t think you can work a bicycle pump fast enough to supply enough air to keep 1 diver alive at 12 feet, let alone a buddy team.

  36. Here’s the thing about “Keep Tahoe Blue” it’s not people like me who visit once in a while who are ruining it. It’s the people who live there. And they want our tax money to keep it blue which to me is more about protecting their real estate value than for environmental reasons.

    You want to save the lake because you love it so much? Donate your house to the National Park Service. It’s too bad the Feds didn’t make it one of the first National Parks a hundred years or so ago.

    So do whatever you want on the bottom of that lake, it’ll be cool whether it’s green or blue. Inevitably the people who live there will screw it up, so don’t let the fun police ruin your good time.

    1. Actually, I’d say it *is* the people who visit once in a while that ruin it. There are only 50,000 people in the entire Tahoe basin.

      Guess who owns most of the ridiculously large speedboats, lakeside homes, etc etc?

      Guess who bring in the quagga mussels and etc, and then bitch and moan about the inspections and do everything they can to sneak on to the lake?

      hint: it’s not the locals. Not the majority of it.

  37. I like this family. They post good (well-thought, well-written, interesting) BB comments :)

    And if that isn’t how you best take the measure of a man, I don’t know what is!

  38. I thought there was going to be furniture and a TV and a kitchen and an amateur teenage rock band.

  39. Hello, Jordan here co inventor, and camera man for this shot. Even though the bubble room is a DIY project it has taken years of improvements and some pretty heavy brainstorming sessions with some very bright people, to get it to where it is today. Not only is it pretty dangerous if you aren’t acutely aware of the laundry list of risks involved, but the build in general is very heavy duty and well thought out. For example a bubble that size has a lifting force of approx 5,600 pounds! it’s one thing when you underestimate a project and it goes wrong in your garage and now ones lives are involved, its completely another when the project involves your friends and family’s lives, 20 feet underwater. I know it’s awesome and I don’t blame anybody for wanting one of their very own, but please don’t go out and kill yourselves attempting to replicate a project with such huge forces and such high risk. If you feel the need for your own bubble bad enough (why wouldn’t you?) you can commission my brother and I to install a patented private model complete with fresh air pump, backup generator, detachable stainless steel ring, and heavy duty crystal clear, collapsible vinyl dome. One can be installed during the new construction of any private pool, for more info head over to our website and drop us a line!!

  40. In a swimming pool, the depth’s low enough that it wouldn’t be a huge deal, I imagine. No need for scuba gear, but a definite need for air feed.

    I have to say, there are a few “missing elements” that I’d bring in as optional elements “for a small extra fee” if I were selling something like this in a private pool. For a start: Hot tub nozzles around the rim, sauna steam nozzles too, wooden benches at various heights above/below water, and a cooler-holder.

    People are going to be idiots, too. If they start spending much time in there, they’ll start wanting power. So, I’d give them the option to buy anything they might want power for, in a safe, waterproof fashion (TV screen, laptop, lighting…), or I’d have to live with the fact that they’ll rig up an extension cord and Darwin themselves, instead of paying me lots of money to wire up a safe alternative.

    They’d still be idiots, and bring an extension in for their hairdryer and toaster, but at least I’d have sucked every last dollar out of them before they killed themselves.

    1. Reply to Dewi Morgan #89:
      Dewi: thanks for your kind words. I found your comments most entertaining, especially the “Darwin themselves” bit. :^)
      -Jordan’s Dad (thumbs up guy @ 2:17)

  41. OK. Pretty cool. But aren’t you risking an air embolism if you take a big breath of air and go back up to the surface? Are they releasing air in bubbles as they go up?

Comments are closed.