Is it possible for under water Atlanteans to make explosives?

These Atlanteans have no magic but do have gills. They look like normal people other than the gills and webbed hands and feet. They live in peace but could benefit from explosives for hunting/fishing. Is it possible for this species to manufacture explosives?

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    $\begingroup$ What kind of tech do they have? Can they smelt metal? $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 3:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Will - why do they need metal? An explosion is just a chemical reaction that happens really, really fast, and produces heat and pressure. You don't need metal to make that. $\endgroup$
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 3:38
  • $\begingroup$ I'm sure that @Will's question was working towards your Atlanteans' ability to capture any of the alkali metals (such as pure sodium) which explode when in contact with water. Your characters would need to substantial technical skills, including metallurgy to extract and handle such volatile elements underwater. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 3:56
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    $\begingroup$ Possibly helpful: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/q/71671/17720 $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 8:29
  • $\begingroup$ Does dry land include dry underwater caves? $\endgroup$
    – Firelight
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 15:02

2 Answers 2



My first response was no but thanks for Bellerophon for the link about heat, there is one way. aquatic plants produce oxygen bubble, these can be trapped. Pure oxygen plus a container plus the right fuel can make an explosive. Ignition is tricky but not impossible, low output batteries could be produced as could chemical ignition.

This oxygen could also be used for to produce heat for other things, like metallurgy and certain ceramics.

However keep in mind, mixing chemical in an entirely aquaus setting would be very dangerous, chemistry research in general would be more difficult underwater where isolation is nearly impossible and you are basically forced to breath anything you are working with. This will severely limit chemical research.


Let's assume these folk may function quite well both in and out of water and have mastered some necessary prerequisite technical abilities (fire, ceramics, glass making, chemistry). Let's also assume that there is a flock or herd of some animals to provide a reasonable supply of excrement for nitrates. Dung from horses, sheep, pigs, chickens and bats have all been used as nitrates for making both fertilizer and explosives. It would be quite reasonable that Atlanteans would discover the value of dung-enriched soil for farming and proceed to develop concentrated fertilizer. It is also possible that they may even accidentally discover explosives as result.

If non functional on land; then another alternative is available. Use hollowed out bones from large marine carcasses to make reflux condensors. Placed near the ocean surface to collect solar energy, this would provide a large supply of distilled water. Now our Atlanteans have the basis for electricity from desalination batteries. And can use fish intestinal material for making balloon bladders. Using electricity to perform electrolysis of water will separate it into hydrogen and oxygen. A fish bladder full of hydrogen and oxgen gas ignited by a spark will yield a potent explosion. H-OH torches burn quite a bit hotter than an acetylene torch so our underwater folk have the basis for both explosives and fire. If they can function to depths of about 4000 meters, then they would be able to collect gold silver platinum tin copper and vanadium as well after finding a black smoker volcanic vent. So it would take then longer to develop land dweller technology originating from use of fire, but there is no reason that it cannot be done.

  • $\begingroup$ Doesn't fire require land? Also adding nitrates to underwater farms runs a risk of eutrophication and crop loss. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 8:18
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    $\begingroup$ steverino they can't git on land so this idea will not work $\endgroup$
    – Foxy
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 10:58
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    $\begingroup$ It was worth a shot. Assuming they could function in and out of water made things simple. I'll mull it over a bit and add another answer. Any thoughts on how deep these Atlanteans can swim and still functionally work? $\endgroup$
    – steverino
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 17:12

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