A secret enclave of sorts wants to survive a nuclear war, which they know is inevitable. They plan on riding out the apocalypse on an oil rig, 175 miles off the California coast out in the Pacific. They build an oil platform, the size of the largest oil rig today, disguising it as a commercial project.

They will need to stay on their little oil rig for at least 150 years with 2,500 people living there, and they have to maintain a modern style of life. What modifications would be needed to make for these criteria?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding, Talos 3! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. You may also find Worldbuilding Meta and The Sandbox useful. Have fun! $\endgroup$ May 6 '18 at 0:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What kind of platform, fixed, floating, submersible, ect? $\endgroup$
    – John
    May 6 '18 at 2:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Oil rigs are small, and 2500 people require a surprisingly large amount of room for "a modern style of life." $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    May 6 '18 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ Oil rigs require a large land-based industrial base for basic maintenance. Your colonists must be able to repair/replace critical systems and structural components without any of that support...which means they must be able to manufacture those parts from available materials. Recycling alone won't get you there. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    May 6 '18 at 13:58
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Is the oil rig intended to be an actual, functional, oil rig? Or is the "oil rig" just a cover story to hide their attempt at creating a self-sustaining base?, $\endgroup$
    – dwizum
    May 8 '18 at 13:58

Eat the oil.

The Deepwater Horizon was a big oil rig and it had a crew of 130. You have 20 times that many people living on your rig. There is no way to store enough food for 150 years. You cannot support that many people by fishing the area. You will need food but you have nowhere to grow it - every square foot of horizontal space on your rig is full of people.

Maybe you could roll out floating farms - aquaculture. It is conceivable with the right crops.

But here is the SF idea that is so weird it could save what seems like an unworkable premise. You are on an oil rig. Pump oil. Through the Fischer–Tropsch process you can process petroleum into edible calories. https://www.sciencehistory.org/distillations/magazine/brave-new-butter You can make plastic out of petroleum and use that for things like clothes that will wear out with the generations. Solar, schmolar - run diesel electric generators and a diesel mechanical desalinator.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ If you used the oil food feed a large population of Diploptera punctata(which are found in the pacific btw) you can not risk eating any mis-refined oil food and get food from the milk these cockroaches make(im not kidding sciencealert.com/…). $\endgroup$
    – Amoeba
    May 6 '18 at 2:56
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Amoeba - I love it! I could not think of a food animal which might eat the petrocake but you did. You could have the bugs in floating boxes too. And once you have bug meal you can have fish farms. Farm salmon and sea cabbage is sounding very modern style of life to me! $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    May 6 '18 at 18:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The Fischer–Tropsch process and the process(es) to convert crude oil to plastic require seriously large and large-scale heavy industry. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    May 7 '18 at 1:59

There is another question in the site, in which the OP asked:

Where on Earth is best to build a large underwater lab complex?

One of the obvious ideas for the location of a large laboratory would be underwater, where you don't have to hide it under some alternative identity to keep people away and there are far fewer rules and regulations to deal with outside of the ones you set yourself. So, assuming I have the resources to build such a place, where would be my best options to construct it if I want to take advantage of as many natural resources as possible?

My answer there contains some parts which could be reused here, with some modifications. About being secretive:

It is exactly because you don't have a cover up that you will get prying eyes. What do your goons tell the dock officers when they get asked about the destination for all those tons of fertilizer?

Instead, find or found some legitimate business that can only be conducted very far from the shore, and then you can buy all the supplies you need with practically no questions asked.

If you do wish to live strictly in an oil field, you won't have the resources to feed everyone just off of it. But you can trade with unsuspecting nations:

For example, pair your lab up with an oil company. You can build the lab right under an oil platform. The platform provides the fuel, energy, and the facade you need to buy all kinds of tools, chemicals, machinery and other supplies. If you happen to own the platform you can also use its profits to bankroll the lab. Otherwise the lab provides tech and food (for those courageous enough to eat... whatever it is that you do there).

You could get some more resources in an autonomous way if your rig is close to an island:

If you want to go green for whatever reasons, you could find a university that does state-of-the-art technological research (MIT, Caltech) and conduct research on wave power. This way you get paid to build your own generators instead of having to spend your own money on them. Find some Central or South America island to conduct your research - you can use the excuse that you get more solar power that way, also altruistically you are going to help some poor country with their economy... And then you use the local corruption on your favor, to keep prying eyes away. Bonus if the island happens to be a fiscal haven. Honour the research contracts with your partners, but do keep a couple offices and rooms in the underwater facilities which only a select few mad scientists have the clearance to visit.

If the island is owned by you, either de jure or de facto, it would be even easier. And you can let only the most higher ups live in the rig - the lower citizens would be working on arable land. They might not even know about the whold secret society thing.

And if you don't mind cold weather:

Those still too social for you? Partner with a government and help them build a research station on the south pole. Guaranteed supply deliveries, paid by taxpayer money. Just spend a few thousand dollars building a cute house and drilling ice every few months, write something about gas concentrations on different layers of ice... And they will leave you alone to spend the remaining millions on whatever. Build yourself a nice facility inside Lake Vostok, where not even the most powerful spy sattelites will catch you. Have fun!

In all options above, someone will bankroll you. You can spend the money in supplies to last for decades. The last option saves you a lot in terms of refrigerators, and your stored food, alcohol and drugs would last much longer.


They need to import soil to grow food, scavenge several other platforms for spare parts and hope really really hard nothing vital breaks. Oil rigs are not built to las hundreds of years.

Then shoot 2/3rds of the people because platforms cannot support more than few hundred people, they just don't have the desalination capabilities or space for quarters or sanitation. even using every surface for farming and fishing It is highly unlikely they could produce enough food for that many people, and of course they can't do this because on an oil platform 2500 people it will be close to standing room only.

Your best bet might to use the platform as the core for a large flotilla, storms will reek havoc on such a construct however. Honestly you are just trying to cram too many people on the rig for it to be feasible.


To do it, the platform would have to be like an iceberg with the platform above the water being a tiny part and a massive underwater base is the rest.

The most important thing is power. If you have enough energy, you can run desalination and hydroponics.

Stores and supplies don't need to be stored inside the base but could inside sealed containers sitting on the sea floor outside the base

The platform above might look like an old oil platform but actually is an armed fortress with hidden weapon platforms.

If you actually want to drill for fossil fuels, generators burning natural gas could supply all the power you need.

A platform like this would require a lot of planning and some very rich backers


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.