NOTE: This is a guest blog post from Ted Reckas, Online Editor for One World One Ocean.
For six days starting today, One World One Ocean will broadcast live coverage and in depth reporting of what could be the final mission to Aquarius Reef Base, the world’s last undersea research station, 60 feet underwater in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
The lab allows scientists to live underwater for up to two weeks at a time, pushing the boundary of what we know about the ocean. It is the last vestige of a rich 50-year tradition of ocean explorers living underwater, started by Jaques Yves Cousteau with Conshelf I, in 1962. Aquarius has been cut from next year’s federal budget and may be closed as soon as December.
Our mission at One World One Ocean is to inspire people to protect the ocean. When there are plenty of ocean issues that deserve attention flying under the public’s radar, why have we sent a team of top-notch cinematographers to train their lenses on a little-known research base that may be closed by Christmas?
Because it has provided two decades of research and discoveries, from understanding the disappearance of coral reefs, to studying sea sponges, the source of cancer drugs Halaven and Ara-C. NASA uses Aquarius to train astronauts for space, and just completed its 16thmission there, which focused on landing and working on an asteroid, a few weeks ago.
“It is one of the most valuable and productive tools the US has for coral reef science… It is also a wonderful test bed for ocean technology,” said Dr. Mark Patterson, Director of Autonomous Systems Lab, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and lead aquanaut on Aquarius missions, in a letter to the leaders of NOAA.
Aquarius is important because it massively speeds up the timeline for getting science done. Patterson, said, “Scientists can accomplish in nine days what might take 9-12 months otherwise. It’s a time machine.”
Scuba diving is arduous, and most dives are about an hour because of decompression time. With Aquarius you don’t have to surface, so no time is wasted on decompression. Scientists can just return to the base from 9-hour dives, dry off, keep working, and repeat this for up to 16 days.
Photo credit: DJ Roller/Liquid Pictures 3D
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