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The famed French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau devoted his career to understanding and raising awareness about the world’s oceans. It seems to have become something of a family tradition. In an effort to raise awareness about the world’s oceans, Fabien Cousteau spent 31 days in a lab off the coast of Florida.
Fabien Cousteau says his 31-day underwater living experiment in the Florida Keys was a monumental success that used tools of which his famous ocean explorer grandfather could only dream.
“This expedition’s main goal was to reach as many people around the world to impassion future generations to care about the oceans, to cherish them, to be curious about them in a way that existed during my grandfather’s era,” said Cousteau at a press conference.
Cousteau and a team of filmmakers and scientists dove June 1 to Aquarius Reef Base to study what effects climate change and pollution are having on a coral reef. The crew started decompression Tuesday inside the pressurized lab, 63 feet below the ocean’s surface off Key Largo. They resurfaced Wednesday and returned to the Aquarius command center in Islamorada. The entire expedition was broadcast in real time online, and Cousteau held video chats with classrooms worldwide. Cousteau says he was struck by the sunlight and fresh air when he emerged Wednesday morning, but he already missed his underwater home.
The primary purpose of the Aquarius is, obviously, not simply to raise awareness. The 43-foot long lab, has six bunks, a bathroom, a shower, wireless internet access, air conditioning and a 24-hour view of the ocean floor at a depth of 60 feet. Being submerged continuously allows divers, or “aquanauts” to leave the lab several times per day to make observations and collect samples and data.
“It was amazing how much it felt like home. I can imagine for someone who doesn’t like tight spaces it could be much more difficult,” Cousteau said. Aquanauts Mark Hulsbeck and Ryan LaPete spent the 31 days with Cousteau studying the impact of warming oceans on marine life. Cousteau estimated that the data collected during the visit to Aquarius, along with data from monitoring equipment installed during his stay would yield 10 research papers. The team spent part of their 15 hour and 45 minute decompression process watching Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s 1964 documentary “World Without Sun” which chronicled his previous record of 30 days underwater.