Lets assume that a scientist somehow discovers or observes that there is an asteroid heading towards Earth. They have some time to prepare for this event, say 10 years. The variance in the calculations would be too much to ascertain a specific impact location. The man has worked as a researcher for a London university for most of his life, is intelligent and if he liquidated his assets could potentially free up ~£1M to buy/build/plan for this event. He would want to protect both himself and his immediate family of, say, 10 people in total.

If the asteroid hits the landmass where the scientist is located any attempts to ride it out would surely be doomed to failure (?). If the asteroid hits a land mass a large distance away then survival would surely depend on whether you have enough resources to ride out the ensuing winter. If, as is most likely, the asteroid hits an ocean; one would need to ride out the ensuing megatsunami and the following winter. Potentially, one would need to consider a firestorm; but again it seems to me that attempting to ride something like this out would be futile. What follows below is my assumption of a valid strategy but I would be grateful for any counter points or improvements on this.

It seems to me that the best course of action for our hero would be to attempt to construct a building to survive a megatsunami and then plan to hoard (but also generate) resources to survive the ensuing period of low sunshine. Hero should choose a plot a land in the Scottish Highlands as it is cheap, isolated and elevated. The building must be able to survive a megatsunami. Potentially it could be at an elevation of 500m-800m, but numbers for megatsunamis indicate that up to 2000m is possible. How do we design a building that can ride this out? The building must be able to harvest some form of renewable energy; bearing in mind solar will be severely reduced this must mean wind? One could potentially hoard enough resources to last a year or so, but will need to be self sustaining as potentially the winter could last a decade or so. There must be some form of system to transport himself and his family from London to there since when the impact approaches it is likely that roads will become unusable. There must be some form of hidden entrances/exits and security system as it is likely that many of the people who have worked on this building may become aware of its purpose and seek to hijack the building or force entrance nearer to impact.

Any ideas to flesh out my story would be much appreciated :)

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ How big is the asteroid and if they have 10 years has he told anyone else about it (since that's long enough to realistically be able to do something about it and not telling anyone would sort of make him a little bit of a psychopath.) If it's very big you might need to factor in temperature drops. if it's smaller then anywhere inland is fine. $\endgroup$ – Murphy Aug 2 '16 at 12:00
  • $\begingroup$ Instead of constructing a building to survive a tsunami, can't he just move? Move to another country instead of making things complicated. lol. Also how has he found out this info, without others finding out ? $\endgroup$ – King of Snakes Aug 2 '16 at 12:18
  • $\begingroup$ If he knows for sure that there's going to be a collision, he also knows what side of the planet it's going to be on. The uncertainties may give him quite a large area where it could hit, but those are a matter of a few minutes in timing, so it's possible to be on the other side of the world. Also, the psychopath issues: someone else will discover this asteroid within a year, and when it's noticed that he didn't tell people, he's dead. $\endgroup$ – John Dallman Aug 2 '16 at 12:41
  • $\begingroup$ My story wants to focus on the fact that he knows something that nobody else does - I want the tension between his knowledge and everyone elses ignorance. My plan was going to be that he does tell a small number of people but over time it becomes apparent that either nothing can be done and/or world governments agree to keep it a secret in order to prevent panic/choas. I suppose thats a classic hush up tale though and I should put more thought in to that. Theres the obvious flaw in that if the government want to keep the secret it would be far easier to execute the man to cover it up. $\endgroup$ – Icarus Aug 2 '16 at 14:31
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ See this question on Astronomy, and this post on a question that includes yours (how to prepare). $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Aug 2 '16 at 19:29

He might be able to increase that number a little. 1 million isn't what it used to be.

He could probably take out a lot of debt if he has more warning than anyone else. Also if he has advanced knowledge then he could probably make some leveraged trades on companies which he could guess would go up or down at news of the apocalypse ahead of the news becoming public. Also taking out some huge mortgages/loans before the news goes public which don't need to be repaid till after the event. Odds are he'd never need to pay it back.

Power supply

On top of wind he could also find somewhere with some underground streams and generate a small stream of power with underground tanks of water and a small turbine.

Wind turbines might actually make your bunker far too easy to spot. You want it to look boring.

Where to move

The size of the asteroid and by extension the possible tsunami is important:the highest village in the UK is at 467 metres, if a 2km wave hit then everyone is dead. Everyone. If he's worried about waves that big then he shouldn't want till the last minute to move out of london, he should be looking at property high in the Peruvian Andes.

Moving out of the UK will also probably help his budget stretch.

The structure

If he ends up with 1.5KM of water over his head at any point it doesn't matter what he's built. He's dead.

So he shouldn't worry too much about the wave. Better to design for storage, fresh water, defense and comfort.


He could mess around trying to be totally self sufficient but he's probably best off just spending 100K on 25 of these:

http://www.costco.com/THRIVE%C2%AE-31,500-Total-Servings-4-Person-1-Year-Food-Storage.product.11763436.html (25 Years Shelf Life )

I'm saying 25 because having twice as much food as you might need is a good idea.

And spending the rest on making a nice defensible, comfortable, dry, uninteresting looking storage bunker with a reasonable amount of guns and ammo to make sure it remains his. Perhaps bring along some survivalist friends.


Again, a leaf out of the survivalist handbook, lots and lots of veterinary antibiotics.


In fact he should probably just buy some survivalist handbooks since they think about this sort of thing a lot.

| improve this answer | |
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the great post. Hadn't thought about the finance angle. Had come across some survivalist stuff but mostly dont trust their data/reasoning skills. Why does 1.5km of water spell certain doom? There must be ways of handling this as we have submersibles that can descend to depths of 4km at least. $\endgroup$ – Icarus Aug 2 '16 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Icarus Sudden pressure changes and debris carried in the wave. A sub can survive KM down but it goes down gradually. It doesn't suddenly get 1.5 km of water hitting it at a thousand miles an hour. You might be able to build something which could survive... but you'd probably need a lot more money. $\endgroup$ – Murphy Aug 3 '16 at 10:16
  • Your scientist should be able to calculate a rough impact location a few days before the ELE. He needs to know the direction of the asteroid and the time of impact to determine if there is an impact at all, or if the asteroid is going to miss Earth. That is enough to determine the hemisphere of the ELE. Go to the middle of the other hemisphere.
  • For that reason, half a dozen moderately well stocked shelters all over the world and a private plane may be a better investment than one really good shelter in a single location.

BTW, you need to explain why the scientist isn't spending money on a public awareness campaign. With ten years lead time, it should be possible to give the asteroid a tiny nudge a few years out. The effects would accumulate over time to make it miss. 0.1 m/s should do the job. Plant a nuke in a crater?

| improve this answer | |
  • $\begingroup$ He's could conveniently lose all his faith in humanity, that would insure that he wouldn't run an awareness campaign $\endgroup$ – Areeb Aug 2 '16 at 16:33
  • $\begingroup$ Another possible reason is that he did try, but everyone thought his calculations were baloney for some reason $\endgroup$ – Areeb Aug 2 '16 at 16:33
  • $\begingroup$ @o.m. If the asteroid is ten years out, we can also assume it is extremely far from earth. Including planning time, any interceptor would likely only be able to get there perhaps 3-4 years prior to impact. The energy required to slow down something of that mass and velocity is surely several hundreds if not thousands of nukes (and that assumes that all their energy is delivered where we want it, which is unlikely). $\endgroup$ – Icarus Aug 2 '16 at 23:25
  • $\begingroup$ @o.m & areeb: Right now there are people running awareness campaigns that Planet X is a mysterious planet with an odd orbit that appears once every 4000 years and causes mass extinctions or something. There are potentially tens to hundreds of scientists around the world that disagree with plate tectonics or global warming. My point is just that its quite easy to see how one guy or even several could be easily dismissed as cranks. Once an intelligent person sees this; its rational not to waste resources attempting to educate people and instead attempt to prepare for yourself. $\endgroup$ – Icarus Aug 2 '16 at 23:29


The deeper you are the less effects of wave action you’re going to feel. (I don’t know but I’m presuming that’s the revers for earthquakes: the higher you are in the water column the less tectonic movement you would feel) So you can hedge your bets. As the asteroid draws closer you should know where in the water column you need to be.

There is a problem with cost. A quick google search leads me to believe a submarine should be in the order of billions not millions. Fortunately you won’t be living in the submarine. That’s just the vehicle you will be using to survive the initial asteroid impact. So it might be possible to get a really cheap poorly constructed one for a million? All it has to do is submerge for several hours and fit 10 people.

After the impact, it might be possible to use the sub as a boat/temporary shelter.

Supplies and tools probably won’t fit in this submarine jalopy. Your best bet is to anchor a couple of buoys in the same body of water as your sub. The supplies might be stored in the buoy itself or are the anchors (maybe both?)

| improve this answer | |

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