A new design for a portable subsea "tent" providing a dry, liveable habitat means campers now have no excuse for packing up at the first sight of rain.

Developed by diver Michael Lombardi's organisation Ocean Opportunity Inc. and New York University, their mission was to develop a shelter for divers allowing teams to remain longer underwater in spaces where conventional equipment is not enough.

The Ocean Space Habitat provide a dry place to rest, run, research or decompress after deep dives.

It relies upon a watertight outer skin made from vinyl-polyester fabric which, like a tent, is supported with steel framework, ropes and strapping.

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Most importantly, the outer canopy is anchored with guide ropes to a weighted point. At this depth tent pegs will not suffice.

The Habitat offers shelter for up to six hours and can be fitted out with hammocks or benches.

The tent was successfully tested on a dive off the Coast of Rhode Island last year, and further test dives are planned, including overnight missions and deployments of up to 12 hours.

The concept is one of many research projects developed by the Rhode Island research centre of Lombardi, who has assumed the jokey moniker of "Dr. Deep".

Comparing the experience of his ocean habitat to the "Muraka" underwater resort in the Maldives, he likens it to what "a luxury resort in the mountains" is to an "overnight at base camp," but is excited about the amount of knowledge still to be explored in underwater habitats.

In his research blog, Lombardi wrote such underwater habitats might have a role to play in environmental and ocean conservation.

"Where as we improve upon our terrestrial sustainability, the technology and systems needed for undersea habitation will be developed and become more readily available."

The Ocean Space Habitat, which was awarded a patent in December, is described by Prof. Winslow Burleson of NYU as "similar to a base camp for mountaineers," in that it allows divers to take a portable operations shelter with them.

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"There are a number of health and safety challenges to deep and long duration diving. In water, people can lose heat much faster than in air and moving through water requires much more energy," said Burleson, who is the associate professor of the NYU-X lab.