A Chemist's Perspective: Underwater Metalworking

Hello everyone, I recently joined the forum and also become acquainted with the underwater civilization debate; and I believe that I have a unique perspective on the matter. I am a senior chemistry major, I will soon have a published chemistry paper in a chemistry journal, and after undergrad I will be pursuing a PhD in atmospheric chemistry. It breaks my chemistry heart that so little discussion on underwater metalworking ignores all the chemistry involved because UNDERWATER METALWORKING IS 100% POSSIBLE!

First we should recognize that we don’t actually need fire (combustion of organics in oxygen gas) to perform metalworking, we just need an intense heat source, and fire is one (but certainly not the only way) to get that. As a few people have pointed out (and have been ignored) there are several other exothermic (heat producing) reactions that can occur underwater. For example the reaction of hydrogen sulfide with sulfur dioxide is exothermic and involves reagents that are found in abundance around methane seeps (which are major hubs of life anyway). There are so many other reactions that could also work, one great contender is a thermite reaction using native aluminum and iron oxide, which are once again both found around methane seeps (Redirecting). I could keep listing reactions, but I don’t need to because all that is necessary for metalworking is any relatively strongly exothermic reaction, of which there are so many.


Yeah, makes sense, but what about later on, how could a underwater civilization develop computers, or long range communications, or writing?

welcome to the forums!
(un)fortunately, the underwater civ and plant civ discussions have been banned from the forums
there is a subreddit that was made specifically to discuss those however, R/ThriveU8PcivsPipeline
feel free to post there

Writing is really easy because it’s so broad. Ancient Sumerian Civilization just used impressions in clay, and you can even buy underwater pens and paper now. As for electronics, it is true that exposed wires would be short circuited in salt water, but by the time a species is ready to enter the Information Age, they should have many tools to get around this. For example the first transistors all needed their own vacuums, so an underwater civilization could simply make a vacuum pump using the metalworking I described.

I would like to mention that several of these have been brought up. The problem is how to access them, and why wouldn’t they have already burned long before the sapient race arose?

Hhyyrylainens challenge was a full description of how an underwater civilization can get to the space stage. If you want to do that, great, I think underwater civs are possible too, but until then threads pertaining to underwater civs are liable to be locked

Harvard graduate student-esq essay*

“Why do energetic molecules exist when they could be in a less energetic state?” Is one of the fundamental principles of chemistry. The answer is kinetics, which is the fact that special conditions must exist for molecules to react. Molecules do not just magically change until they are in their least energetic state, they respond to the conditions around them in predictable ways. In the case of hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide, they need some initial energy to get them to react to become elemental sulfur and water. This could come front sparking rocks together, or from, I dare say it, the heat of a hydrothermal vent.

ill be closing the thread now, please continue further discussions in DMs and/or in the subreddit i mentioned