Say there is a fantasy world where land is extremely rare, with only a few islands specling it's surface. The rest of the world, however, is covered in a single ocean. What would a society be like in a world like this, considering the humans are at our current stage in evolution (not breathing water) and have the technology of the Roman Empire at it's height. Note that this ocean's ecosystem is up for interpretation. My question is, how would these people get resources such as food and potable water,where/what could these people go or build no not drown and how they would acquire the resources necessary. Note that these islands are purely sand based, so any vegetation/food would have to be found at sea. (I understand that it would be impossible for humans to evolve, but becuase this is a fantasy setting I am unconcerned.)

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    $\begingroup$ As a general rule: if your question includes sub questions that can stand alone you’re better off breaking it down into the sub questions. You can always link them together once you’ve started to get a better idea of your world. I’m going to VTC this as too broad, but I’d recommend breaking it down into a series of ‘waterworld’ themed questions, possibly starting with the ‘bases’ sub question. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 27 '17 at 19:26
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    $\begingroup$ Fairly sure there’s a question about floating roman concrete somewhere that might be handy. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 27 '17 at 19:30
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs Thanks, just read it. However I still feel like I need some details. $\endgroup$ – Unhappymarshmellow Oct 27 '17 at 19:34
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    $\begingroup$ We can engineer floating concrete because we have a more advanced understanding of chemistry than the romans. Just because they had concrete does not mean they can do everything we can with it. $\endgroup$ – anon Oct 27 '17 at 19:36
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    $\begingroup$ Not only would humans not evolve they would have no stone for tools nor wood for ships or fire, even if you have humans you have no bases for technology. $\endgroup$ – John Oct 27 '17 at 22:08

I think you’re likely to have migratory fleets.

Forget solid shelter. Land is scarce. Big floating ‘cities have serious structural issues. Shallow water where you can anchor is (paradoxically) very dangerous, as open water swells will become very fast moving and dangerous breakers.

So go with fleets. These can follow your main food supply (fish), use sunlight distillation to provide a little water and rain for the rest, provide support for each other should one ship run into trouble, avoid major storms and periodically resupply by landing at whatever small archipelagos you may have. They can also swap ships if they meet.

If you have specialist ‘garden boats’ you could even create yourself enough soil to grow plants that can be of use. The main issue will be a sufficient supply of timber to keep the boats in repair and somehow being able to build and repair boats on the move. The former problem can be resolved with a handwavy hard sea plant, the latter can (with a calm sea and enough teamwork) be done by ‘rafting’ many specialised boats to provide a platform for ‘dry’ dock operations.

This won’t eliminate the risk of drowning, sadly, but with many boats supporting each other you can at least reduce the risk, and should you lose part of the fleet the rest can continue.

  • $\begingroup$ @Unhappymarshmellow: Indonesian nations, established on the tiny amount of land they had, established quite a rich boatbuilding tradition. The hard sea plants might rely on the drying process to become usable: picture seaweed that, when treated correctly and dried, becomes wood-like. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘submerged’ for plants, but most small land based plant can be grown in planters if you have sufficient soil and waste (ground fish bones were used as fertiliser, or you could take along some chickens). $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 27 '17 at 20:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Unhappymarshmellow: so as long as you can get a few boats from land and have some way to make hard, wood like material on the open ocean you can start and maintain the fleet. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 27 '17 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I didn't realize that. But how would they get to these plants and the soil to grow them? $\endgroup$ – Unhappymarshmellow Oct 27 '17 at 20:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Unhappymarshmellow: they would have to bring seedlings from land, unless there are oceangoing plants they can pull behind/with them. The soil can be composted from waste food or mixed from faeces (though it’s a good idea to be careful with human faeces), or dredged from shallow patches of sea floor. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 27 '17 at 20:30
  • $\begingroup$ The islands do have any seeds, as I said, a vegetation is strictly water based $\endgroup$ – Unhappymarshmellow Oct 27 '17 at 20:34

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