Mission 31: A monthlong undersea adventure (pictures)
Fabien Cousteau and crew are set to surface after 31 days underwater. Get a glimpse of their aquatic life -- including encounters with goliath groupers and even a "vampire."
For the past month, Fabien Cousteau has led a team of aquanauts on a mission living and working at the world’s only undersea research lab,
Aquarius. They're set to surface Wednesday. Mission 31 is similar to one
his famous grandfather, Jacques Cousteau, undertook a little over 50
years ago. Click on to get a glimpse of what life was like during the 31-day undersea adventure.
Fabien Cousteau arrives at Aquarius on June 1. The undersea lab is 63 feet below the surface in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Aquanauts enter the habitat through what’s called a moon pool.
The first wave of aquanauts huddle around the table inside Aquarius. From left: Adam Zenone, Andy Shantz, Ryan LaPete, Mark Hulsbeck, Fabien Cousteau, and Kip Evans. Off to the right, you can see the bunks where they sleep.
Sylvia Earle, who Jean-Michel Cousteau calls “America’s Jacques Cousteau,” arrives at Aquarius. In 1970, Earle led the first all-female team of aquanauts on a research expedition as part of Tektite II.
Fabien Cousteau has described Mission 31 as an "underwater classroom." He and his team shared their
discoveries with viewers through daily Skype video calls with
students around the world, live reports on the Weather Channel, and updates on social media.
Scientific research was a big part of the expedition. The aquanauts, including Fabien Cousteau and Adam Zenone shown here, conducted research in areas ranging from predator-prey behavior to the effects of pollution and climate change on the health of the ocean.
In this June 1963 photo, Jacques Cousteau is seen near his diving saucer in the Red Sea.
In the 1960s, Cousteau led a couple of experiments in undersea living. During Conshelf Two, about a half dozen oceanauts lived and worked in an undersea colony in the Red Sea for 30 days, while a support team worked above the surface. The Oscar-winning film "World Without Sun" chronicled their time underwater.
Aquanaut Liz Magee operates the Edgertronic camera, on loan from MIT. The camera, which shoots ultra high-speed video, was named for Harold “Doc” Edgerton, who was a pioneer in stop-motion photography. Jacques Cousteau was friends with the MIT professor -- “Papa Flash, as we used to call him on Calypso,” says Fabien Cousteau, who grew up on the decks of his grandfather’s boats.
Cousteau looks out a porthole at Aquarius. At the end of the mission, the aquanauts “decompress” inside Aquarius, enabling them to exit the habitat and safely ascend to the surface. During decompression, which can take 16 to 18 hours, Aquarius is slowly brought to surface pressure, then repressurized quickly.