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If there are people living deep underwater swishing around in nice submarines, how will they provide value to normie landlubbers?

http://theoildrum.com/node/4558 all but rules out the possibility they would harvest minerals. This more recent article possibly rules lithium back in: https://www.mining.com/scientists-develop-cheap-and-easy-method-to-extract-lithium-from-seawater/

That's extracting minerals from the seawater, but what about from the sea bed?

Then there's fish, of course. I wonder if there's some deepsea fish that's really yummy or valuable.

Possibly they don't provide a good, but a service or manufacturing process that requires high pressure.

There's always research and basic science, but what specific fields? Maybe some sort of bioprospecting?

Any ideas?

PS: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seafloor_massive_sulfide_deposits#Economic_importance and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrothermal_vent#Exploitation

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  • $\begingroup$ A question I'll ask regarding your submariners - are they people who live exclusively in the ocean in submarines? I find it likely that many countries would rather just use their tech and plunder whatever riches are there, be it oil or scientific knowledge, for themselves. $\endgroup$ Sep 12 '21 at 23:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Current the opportunity to steal and plunder depends on the status of the sea people. When the land people would depend on the sea people for certain products and activities, there is no reason to treat sea people any differently than "foreigners". Economically: "producers". Suppose the land people would have useful products, the sea people would become "customers" too. The sea people could prosper economically, and very well able to build a defense. In some of DWKraus scenarios they would even have certain advantages.. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Sep 13 '21 at 15:52
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Flip The World on It's Head:

The bad news is, it's easier, cheaper, and generally more efficient in most ways for people to do things on the surface of the sea, rather than go under it. Due to light, most of the life and food is close to the surface. Nets and lines allow people to remotely access the deeper parts of the sea without complex machines. Even floating dwellings are more practical than underwater ones. So to make your world a practical place for submarine living, you either need to put something really valuable really deep, OR you need to make the surface a crappy place to be.

  • Here there be Monsters: There are large oceanic apex predators that dwell about a hundred feet down, but feed on things above them. These things ram floating animals or use sonic attacks to kill fish. Unfortunately, this has made fishing and shipping a very dangerous set of professions. Submarines can dive beneath the level of these predators, avoiding attack. So a fishing boat that goes out into deep water must perforce be capable of functioning as a submarine. A sub-nautical culture has grown up around the numerous islands of the world that for much of human history were inaccessible. This also makes flying boats a great tool.
  • Gold Rush: Much of the gold in the world is bound up by an odd microorganism that extracts it from sea water and forms odd nuggets that sit on the bottom. The bacteria make the gold float via hydrogen production if the colony starts to sink under the silt, and the colony breaks up (scattering the gold) if the nuggets are treated roughly. So to get the gold, submarine harvesting machines must gently coax the nuggets off the bottom into the harvesters. Gold could be substituted for giant pearls, ambergris-like biological materials, or anything else of sufficient value to motivate people to fetch it. Maybe there's a deep-ocean shrimp with fatty acids that reverse heart problems. The specifics would be up to you.
  • Night World: Your world is adapted to the daily bombardment of deadly solar radiation from their sun. Plants are resistant, and animals bury themselves. Fish only feed at night, diving deep in the ocean during the day to shield from the exposure. Towns are underground or in shelters, and people only come out at night. Your ocean requires either ships with heavy shielding or submarines. A cargo ship might sail in the surface at night, and dive during the day (powered by floating solar panels). Submarine fishing vessels can go deep to where the fish hide in the day to gather food.
  • Marie Celeste syndrome: There is some kind of recurring, sudden disaster happening on your world that makes shipping on the surface a long-term losing proposition. Perhaps semi-randomly the atmosphere suddenly becomes toxic for days as diatomic poison algae blooms make the surface air unbreathable. Folks on the coastal lands have sealed buildings to retreat to, or the blooms only happen out to sea. Ships all must be air-tight, sealed, and/or use extensive air filtration systems to allow breathing. Since ships have to be sealed, contain enclosed air, and need to be pricey anyway, submarine costs relative to surface vessels are lower. Submarines are better protected from surprise events, can rapidly seal and spend large amounts of time "buttoned up" anyway.
  • Ice Station Zebra: Significant portions of your world's surface is frozen periodically, for both ice caps plus major navigable channels. There may also be wild fluctuations so the ice caps advance or retract hundreds (thousands?) of miles with each season. This may be recent (climate change), or perhaps the orbit of the planet is eccentric, with a winter freezing the entire ocean for a year, followed by a year-long summer. Brutal winter storms mean air transport and even rails are difficult to impossible to use. Huge icebergs embedded in the ice flows make surface transport or even ice breaking too challenging to be practical. Cities and large towns have sheltered docks where transport submarines going under the ice can surface and unload. While life on the surface struggles on, the ice means shipping needs to move under water to keep the cities supplied. Submarine crews may be hailed as heroes for braving treacherous conditions.
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Fish farming

There exist deep sea fish that can be consumed, like Orange roughy. This is very expensive food now, because these fish are rare and difficult to catch. Sea people could make fish farms and harvest. Same counts for sea weed, shrimps and other food products.

Mining

Your underseas living people could mine Manganese nodules from the bottom of the ocean. Other precious materials like gold and silver could also be available in certain locations currently unknown to mankind.

Oil and gas

To make oil wells safer, underseas people could maintain and exploit these.

Cables and pipelines

Using iron from the nodules, the ocean people could provide and maintain cables and pipelines for transporting energy and information.

Offshore engineering

Locate and dig up large quantities of sediment to help make artificial islands, building seafloor constructs for offshore use by sea and land people, e.g. for wind turbines.

NOTE: in your question text, you state the underseas people "swish around in nice submarines" .. but the laws of economy pose some problems: 1) land people must build submarines first, sea people would have to buy them and 2) Submarines are quite expensive to travel with. Consider surface ships, floating settlements and deep water settlements as alternatives.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! I didn't know about the orange roughy. $\endgroup$
    – Humphrey
    Sep 12 '21 at 23:40
  • $\begingroup$ "Submarines are quite expensive to travel with." is a big one I've been struggling with; see some of my previous questions: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/underwater $\endgroup$
    – Humphrey
    Sep 12 '21 at 23:40
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    $\begingroup$ I've seen your energy question, i put a remark there about that Danish vessel, it may be too small for above purpose. Maybe some kind of settlement would come in handy ? near the surface ? Submarines also like moving near the surface, that is cheaper.. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Sep 13 '21 at 16:03
  • $\begingroup$ I don't see it @Goodies could you link it? $\endgroup$
    – Humphrey
    Sep 13 '21 at 16:07
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe a missing tag ? it's not in that list, but the link does exist in your account (questions) worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/212599/… (my comment is below the opening) $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Sep 13 '21 at 16:43
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Depending on the technology level of your world, deep sea oil drilling can be very valuable. It is something that is not done on a large scale today, due to the difficulty of it. However if your "submariners" are as advanced as it sounds in their deep sea exploration tech (or the oceans are shallow) I'd bet that they could be extremely prosperous.

I'm sure there are also rare earth metals down there which would be very valuable for a society in the digital age like we are. If they are sufficiently advanced tapping into geothermal power from the deep ocean would also be a revenue stream if they could get it to the surface.

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  • $\begingroup$ Rare earth metals is a good one! Thanks and welcome. $\endgroup$
    – Humphrey
    Sep 12 '21 at 23:31

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