Fabien Cousteau to plunge into undersea adventure June 1

Jacques Cousteau’s grandson will lead a team of aquanauts on a 31-day mission to live and work at the world’s only undersea lab. And you can watch it all unfold in real time.

Fabien Cousteau, Aquarius, Mission 31
Aquarius will be home base for Mission 31 starting in June. DJ Roller

What's it like to live beneath the sea for a month with a handful of people you don't know that well, crammed into an underwater research lab the size of a school bus, all in view of an audience? And we're not talking about the sea creatures outside the lab looking in.

A team of six aquanauts, including Jacques Cousteau's grandson Fabien Cousteau, will find out starting June 1, the just-announced launch date for the Mission 31 expedition. Aquarius, an undersea lab 63 feet below the surface in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, will be their home for 31 days while they explore the deep and conduct scientific research.

While the aquanauts study the marine life, anyone above the surface can tune in to study them, throughout Mission 31, in real time.

Cousteau, an ocean explorer and filmmaker like his famous grandfather, describes Mission 31 as "an underwater classroom," where he and his team will share their discoveries with viewers -- through daily Skype video calls with students around the world, live reports on the Weather Channel, real-time updates on social media, and a live feed on the Mission 31 Web site. His film production team also plans to shoot short- and long-form documentaries during the monthlong adventure.

Cousteau's undersea-living expedition is similar to one his grandfather undertook in 1963, but this one is going deeper and one day longer.

"The reality is that we've explored less than 5 percent of our ocean to date," Cousteau said in an earlier interview with CNET. So there are still a lot of stories to tell, and discoveries and adventures to be had, he said. "In essence we're hoping to continue on where my grandfather left off."

Jacques Cousteau's Oscar-winning documentary "World Without Sun," released 50 years ago, provided moviegoers with a window into the underwater world of explorers living and working for a month in "inner space."

During Mission 31, the team will conduct research, including studying how climate change, overconsumption, and pollution are affecting ocean health. They'll also participate in experiments on the physiological and psychological effects of living under the sea.

Mission 31 had been set to launch late last year but Cousteau decided to postpone it until spring, in part because science and film permits got held up because of the US government shutdown in October. Funding for the expedition is coming from corporate sponsors and private donations.

Aquarius, the world's only undersea research lab, is about 43 feet long and about 9 feet wide inside. There are six bunks, a shower and toilet, hot water, a refrigerator, a microwave, and air conditioning. The longest mission Aquarius has hosted was 18 days, but 10 days is more typical.

The aquanauts will have some cool tech to help them do their work: underwater robots and motorcycles. Cousteau has promised to highlight "some surprise tech" during the mission, but said you'll have to tune in to find out more.

About the author

Anne Dujmovic is an associate editor at CNET News. After working more than a dozen years in newspapers, including a seven-year stint at the San Jose Mercury News, Anne migrated north to Portland, Ore. There, she honed her pastry-making skills as an apprentice. Although she's returned to journalism, she still misses the free pastries. E-mail Anne.

 

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