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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ever dreamt of living underwater? Welcome to Mission Aquarius.

Dr. Sylvia Earle answers one of the most important questions ever Why do we need the ocean? In the background you see the living reef of the Aquarius Reef Base where Sylvia and five other aquanauts are living this week.

The Aquarius Reefbase is the world' only undersea research station and is located in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The laboratory is deployed three and a half miles offshore at a depth of 60 feet, next to conch reef. This facility is  owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and operated by the University of North Carolina–Wilmington. Scientists have been using Aquarius since 1986, when it was first established to understand the disappearance of coral reefs, train NASA astronauts for space and research sea sponges, the source of cancer drugs. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, we might be living in the times of the last ever Aquarius Mission. A sad sad thought.

The ongoing mission, which commenced on the 16th of July, is focused on celebrating the 50 years that have passed since Jacques Cousteau put history’s first habitat, Conshelf I, 33 feet underwater off Marseille, France.    

I am sure, you now have a million questions swirling in your mind. How do you get there? How do you get your equipment in there? How do you enter the facility without letting in any water? Can you communicate with the outside world at all?

Its a marine biologists dream and, as Dr. Sylvia Earle puts it, its 'a gift of time', because the team of aquanauts are saturation diving, and they can dive for 9 hours of the day at a stretch rather than the 45 minutes you normally get if you dive from a boat.

The concept is incredible and it will be a great loss to science if we were to shut it down. I encourage you to watch this introductory video to the mission http://www.youtube.com/user/OneWorldOneOcean and follow all the live feeds on twitter by following #MissionAquarius to stay abreast of what's happening. 

In addition, check out the Mission Blue blog; http://blog.sylviaearlealliance.org/Check out the dedicated oneworld one ocean website: http://www.oneworldoneocean.org/expeditions/aquarius and learn more about Aquarius reef base here: http://aquarius.uncw.edu/

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