Of ships and archipelagos

In the summer of 2005, the San Diego-based company SeaCode announced that they would permanently anchor a cruise ship off the coast of Los Angeles, in international waters, filling it with an army of “offshore” computer programmers.

This odd new micronation would beam the results of its cheap labor back to mainland clients via microwave and T3 internet connections. It would have a steady labor base, sovereign terrain, potentially even immunity from taxes – and loads and loads of code.

As the journal Application Development Trends writes: “the ship will retain all of its cruise ship facilities and will feed and house workers in style. During off hours, programming teams can partake of the ship’s recreational facilities or head for the lights of L.A. on a water taxi, since each worker will be required to have a U.S. tourist visa.” (But check out the comments at the end of that link for some Archigram-worthy speculation).

Work teams will be broken up into “pods,” with “pod leaders,” and they will work around the clock.

Interestingly, both sides of the political spectrum seem outraged by the idea; right-ish and left-ish observers have responded with outright hostility, even making sarcastic comments about where the ship’s toilets will flush.

But I like it; if there’s some loophole in international maritime law that allows you to start a free state off the coast of Los Angeles – then I want several. A whole island arc of decommissioned cruise ships, with BLDGBLOG offices on a super-boat somewhere, helicoptering architects out on weekends for coffee; feeding sharks; shooting skeet; awarding novelist-in-residence titles to Jeff VanderMeer, J.G. Ballard, China Miéville, Don DeLillo… We can host the world’s first Miss Micronation Pageant, as well as conferences on the state of plate tectonics. Grow orange trees on a hydroponic barge to stay healthy. Panic when storms come in.

Meanwhile, a fully inhabited ghost-archipelago of Chinese “zombie ships” has been found off the coast of West Africa – but it’s a lot less interesting than it sounds. This account, by Greenpeace, doesn’t like the ships – and has nothing to say about their implications for offshore architectural design. Or whether Constant would be pleased.

Nor does the article offer any thoughts about the first truly great horror film of our globalized times: a weird industrial accident in China has somehow turned all the local workers into flesh-eating zombies; for whatever reason, these zombies are put onto an archipelago of rusting ships in the Indian Ocean; a band of pan-European scientists studying deep ocean-floor tomography sees the ships on the horizon… and the film goes on from there.

(SeaCode discovered via Scott Webel and his Museum of Ephemerata; Chinese zombie ships found via things magazine).

7 thoughts on “Of ships and archipelagos”

  1. But why leave zombie-genesis to industrial malfunction or accident?

    SeaCode may not be just a floating stockpile of 24/7 binary programing; what if the computer coding is just a front, and the real project is cracking that other sea code, the vast store of genetic information awash in the currents? Not only cracking, but hacking, splicing, and dicing into the micronation’s body politic? Those water taxis unleash a nightly miasma of genetically engineered, cruise ship fattened zombies, pod shaped and beflippered, until the water taxis become unnecessary: close-up of coder bodies growing gills…

    Next, SeaCode announces a restructuring of its entire operation and transforms the super ship into a combination casino/prison while the gene hacked coders hole up in a sponge like secretion spreading beneath the boat. As this strange porous, phosphorescent form envelopes the entire boat within a chrysalis (still filled with gamblers and prisoners of the microstate), pandemonium breaks in LA. Eyewitnesses babble about something vast and gelatinous bobbing in the bay. Weird interference in telecommunications seems to emanate from the blob… daring BLDGBLOG commandoes risk everything for a teaspoon of the blob, which upon analysis resembles human nervous tissue, but with horribly truncated DNA operating on a binary basis…

  2. Reminds me of the aircraft carrier “The Raft” in Snow Crash! I’d love to see pop culture build up around this – SeaCode Ninja Warriors!

  3. This reminds me of Louis Kahn’s Point/Counterpoint II, the barge that serves as home and stage for the American Wind Symphony Orchestra.

  4. Pirate coders would become ramora-like. Parking on the cable to extract and inject data without detection, and then feed off the security breach at an undetectable level so as not to crash the economy from their superior postion, hidden by the oceans.

  5. I love all these ideas – I love the wind symphony barge, the ramoras, the zombie-sludge, the ninjas… the SeaCode ship itself.

    Instead of running a series of expensive winter resorts, like Vail, or Whistler, you open up a franchised series of offshore utopias: BLDGBLOG Presents: Offshore Microtopias. A joint venture with the Museum of Ephemerata. The future of terrain.

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