In my world the human race exists on an infinite plane; 250,000 years of history conspire; things happen; and BOOM: a modern empire that controls what it though to be the "world" embarks on a new age of colonization.

After 50 years it faces a problem: A huge-as-Hades ocean lies between its farthest flung colonies and whatever that lies to the south. No one has ever been across it; some say it goes on forever while others say it is uncrossable. Due to the government of the aforementioned empire not wanting to be bottled in – there is a very large polar region to the north and extremely dense desert and jungle continents to the east and west – it pools the vast wealth, resources and modern technology of its great nation to construct a fleet of colony ships.

The Ships must cross 250,000 miles of ocean and must transport a total of 10,000 people to establish the colony (since it is so far away).

My Question is: what facilities, capacities, or amenities would such a fleet require to go the distance?

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    $\begingroup$ What level of technology are we talking about? If by modern, you mean 'our' modern, this task is not difficult at all. You just send two or three nimitz-class carriers loaded with frozen food instead of planes/ammo, and you cross your little ocean in under a year. $\endgroup$
    – Daniel M.
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 6:41
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    $\begingroup$ There seems to be a flaw in your reasoning. You say that no one has been across this ocean, and opinions vary between that it is infinite and that is is uncrossable. Yet the government in question knows that they will need to cross 250,000 miles and then will be able to establish a colony. How did they arrive at this conclusion? That's something you will have to address if you want to maintain suspension of disbelief. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 8:24
  • $\begingroup$ Homo Sapiens evolved 100,000 to 200,000 years ago. It is very likely that 250,000 years in the future we will no longer look like we do today, nor will we have the same psychology. Who knows what we will need then. $\endgroup$
    – user8976
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 8:36
  • $\begingroup$ See forum.wordreference.com/threads/… certainly «it is self» as it currently reads can’t be right. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 9:45
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling The government just set an arbitrarily long distance that the ocean should end in within reason. Their is the standard pre written speech in the event that they grossly miscalculation and the settlers die $\endgroup$
    – user15036
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 11:54

3 Answers 3


Edit: i am assuming modern as in "available today" technology.

Let us see. Let's estimate the parameters first.

How long does the cruise take?

A modern cargo ship (according to Wikipedia) goes 21-25 knots. That's roughly 21-28 miles per hour, let's go with 25, because i am lazy. Since i used to sail the oceans myself when i was younger, i do know that currents can reduce that speed to 0 or less (relative to sea ground) when strong currents are involved. Let's assume your ocean has strong currents that, over the course of the journey, cancel each other out. But keep it in mind if you want to make the journey interesting (or prolong or shorten it).

25 miles per hour means 600 miles per day (ships need no sleep), that's 417 days of travel.

How much food and supplies are being consumed during that time?

An average human requires 3x400g of food per day, that's roughly 1,2kg. Getting supplies that last 400 days is not a problem. Since we have 10,000 people, they consume 12000kg, or 12 tons of food per day. That's an impressive 5004 (metric) tons of food during the travel. But hold - they also require fresh water. 2 Liters per day per person. That's another 8340 metric tons of supplies, adding up to a total of 13344 tons of supplies (just food and water).

How much can a modern cargo ship handle?

The Barzan (Wikipedia) can handle up to 200.000 tons of dead weight...

How many passengers can a ship carry?

The Queen Mary 2 has a little bit more than 4000 people on board (Wikipedia)

So how many ships does our fleet need?

You need 4. A cargoship for food and supplies, a ship carrying the fuel (i suppose the cargoship will also carry 150.000 tons of colony supplies, clothing and all that stuff), and 2 cruise liners, providing a year worth of entertainment for our colonists.

You might want to build 4 identical ships, each carrying a part of crew, cargo, supplies and enough fuel, so you don't risk killing everyone by losing a single ship.

So how difficult is this?

Not at all. More like a nice, chill cruise :) And it's not even expensive...

  • $\begingroup$ Yup, this is not actually terribly hard. A world a bit like this, and similar long-range colonisation, feature in Charles Stross' novella Missile Gap. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 8:01
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    $\begingroup$ With modern technology you don't need that much fresh water because you can either recycle waste-water to make it drinkable again (like they do on the international space station) or gain freshwater by distilling seawater. You can also safe a lot of fuel capacity by running your ships with nuclear reactors. $\endgroup$
    – Philipp
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 9:44
  • $\begingroup$ You probably want nuclear power. None of those ships you mention can come close to cruising 250,000km on one tank of gas. They'd need more like 20, and that is a lot of spare refueling capability. Unless you want to bring 4 more tankers, go nuke. Other than that, yeah, chill cruise. Hope the sun is out. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 20:28

Phase One - Reconnaissance

Before sending out your armada blindly into the deep wide ocean, it might be an idea to know where you're going and roughly how long it'll take to get there.

So, you might want to send out drone ships to quarter the oceans. Drones won't need to be manned, so won't need the added weight of crew or provisions, so should have a longer range.

You also need to refuel them, so sending drone refuelling tankers out in waves should increase the scout drones ranges a lot.

You can use something like the refuelling plan from Operation Black Buck which sent Vulcan bombers from the UK to the Falkland Islands, allowing them a flight of 6,800 miles to perform a bombing run.

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While the drones are out, you'll be starting to build your fleet. As soon as you know where land is, you'll have a plan as per Andreas' excellent answer.

The Vulcans, of course, knew where they were headed. Your drone ships will require an expanding spider-web of refuelling in a rolling conveyor belt.

Your refuelling drone ships can be considered expendable, which negates the need to recover them.

Phase Two - Scouting Parties

When you know where land is, you can send out a small manned scouting party (the party being small, not the men). Study the area, see if it's fit for habitation, check out the local population (if one exists) and report back. If it's not suitable, send more drones to map and investigate the coast line for more suitable landing spots.

Phase Three - Colonization

Send your armada out to the chosen location, land, colonize, be happy. Andreas has all the details in his answer.

  • $\begingroup$ You don't even need to make it that complicated since most Victors (as oposed to Operation Black Buck), can actually land at the destination. and don't need to head home. If they are expendable as you suggest, you can reduce that number further. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 8:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Magic-Mouse Yes, I agree. But you'd still need the outgoing rolling-out of refuelling ships so that the long range scout ships can remain fuelled. $\endgroup$
    – user10945
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 8:53
  • $\begingroup$ ofcause, but eg. you can remove the entire wave 3. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 10:08

This doesn't seem like a problem at all. We can get to the moon and back in a few days and most of the fuel it takes is due to escaping the gravity well of earth. Traveling that distance without dealing with the gravity wouldn't be an issue imo.

There is no reason that they wouldn't build a set of built floating cities that harvest the ocean beneath them and farmed for bio-fuel.

So about a kilometer or 2 platform, a desalinizer, corn, and top soil. Set out thousands of kilometers apart as refueling stations for any food, water, whatever tht is needed. Also building this infrastructure out would allow for much easier and faster colonization in the long run, especially if there is something crazy on the other side.


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