July 11, 2012
By Deb Castellana
|(c) Aquarius Reef Base
Training has begun for Dr. Sylvia Earle and her team of aquanauts in Key Largo, Florida in preparation for Mission Aquarius. On Sunday, July 16th, the team will undertake a saturation dive lasting until July 21st to the Aquarius Reef Base, sitting in 63′ of water in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. It’s the last remaining underwater laboratory in the world, and Mission Blue will be there both to celebrate 50 years of underwater exploration, and also to bring awareness to the looming funding cuts ahead. This may well be the last mission of Aquarius.
Since 1993, the Aquarius undersea lab has supported 114 missions, with over 550 peer-reviewed scientific publications produced, numerous educational programs and television pieces. NASA has participated in a number of programs to research everything from the psychological effects of living in close quarters to mining asteroids (see NASA/NEEMO Website
). The Aquarius Reef Base is also supporting one of the longest running coral reef monitoring programs in the world, critical given current ocean stressors such as climate change and ocean acidification.
Aquarius has provided the world’s leading marine scientists with the opportunity to live aboard and engage in complicated research projects that could only have been carried out from saturation diving. By living and working on the seafloor for an extended period of time (up to 10 days,) scientists are able to comprehensively and intimately study and document the coral reef ecosystem.
Says Dr. Sylvia Earle, who now embarks on her third saturation dive with Aquarius, “Being able to study the animals and plants in their home using an underwater habitat gives me the gift of time,” Earle said in a mission summary. “Time to see what these magnificent life forms are actually doing on the reef.”
A cohesive partnership has formed between Mission Blue
, One World One Ocean
, Google, The Aquarius Foundation
, NOAA, UNCW (The University of North Carolina at Wilmington,) National Geographic, and Reef Base Aquarius and the collaboration promises to be a powerful force, bringing public attention to the achievements of Aquarius as well as to what may be lost if this should be the last mission.
Our media teams will be transmitting across multiple platforms from Mission Aquarius through live feeds, social networks, feature articles, as well as mainstream media. Dr. Earle and Principal Investigator Mark Patterson will speak live with students from Williams and Mary College, there will be a live feed with Chautauqua Institution, at least one Google +Hangout, and possibly even a call-in with Ira Flatow’s always entertaining and fascinating NPR show, ‘Science Friday.’
One World One Ocean will be on site with IMAX cameras, and aquanaut DJ Roller of Liquid Pictures
will be shooting in 3D. Having some of the most talented photographers and videographers present, we expect spectacular content at the highest level to be produced, both for publication now, and in the future.
We hope that you will help us to maximize this educational and outreach effort, and to use this rare opportunity to increase ocean literacy. So please tweet it, facebook it, and e-mail our news from the Mission Blue website if you can. The ocean would thank you if she could!
Much more content on Mission Aquarius is on it’s way, so stay tuned!