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Watch: There’s an Underwater Elevator in the Baltic Sea and Anyone Can Ride It

News Art + Architecture
by Olivia Harden Aug 6, 2021

If you’re curious to know what goes on under the surface of the ocean, you could scuba dive, but that just might not be as cool as an underwater elevator. On the northeast coast of Germany, on the Baltic Sea, there are four underwater elevators (also called underwater gondolas or Tauchgondel in German) that are meant to take tourists on the ride of a lifetime.

Built in 2009, these unique-looking, 50-ton underwater elevators take visitors below the surface of the Baltic Sea. YouTuber Tom Scott went for a ride and met with Rüdiger Zitz, one of the crew members in charge of the underwater elevators.

The Tauchgondel works like an elevator. You climb in, and after the press of a few buttons, it sinks to the bottom of the ocean floor. The sound of the waves engulfs the room and the light turns a shade of green — the same color as the water right outside. The water in the Baltic Sea isn’t very clear so don’t expect to see whales and fish from the window, but it’s still fun to take a peek at what goes on under the surface of the ocean.

Scott asks Zitz about the safety precautions that must be taken to ensure passengers won’t get stuck or if there’s a leak anywhere. He explains that the gondola uses two motors, and by releasing the holding brake, the gondola will quickly shoot back up to the surface. If that doesn’t work, there are two emergency exits so passengers can end up back on the pier. Also, there’s fresh air ventilation coming at all times in the underwater elevator (it’s not pressurized like in a submarine) and the windows are 2.3-inches thick and made of several layers of safety glass.

Eventually, you might see the Tauchgondel pop up in places where the water is a bit clearer, like the Caribbean, Greece, or even the Maldives, but Zitz said that each one would have to be one-of-a-kind to accommodate the different locations.

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