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Aquanauts Begin Undersea Mission In The Keys

Posted by Scuba Herald on Sep 20th, 2007 and filed under Marine Science. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Six scientists have begun a nine-day mission in the world’s only permanent working undersea laboratory to study changes to corals and marine life off the Florida Keys. The scientists will live underwater and broadcast their activities over the Web to students and the general public.

Six “aquanauts” will work, sleep and eat in the Aquarius Reef Base. Aquarius lies 60 feet below the surface on the ocean floor about nine miles southeast of Key Largo in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The base lets researchers dive for nine hours a day and return to the habitat without standard scuba diving requirements of surfacing and decompressing.

They’ll be supported by a shore-based crew on watch around the clock. Real-time video, audio, and Internet feeds will provide high-resolution communications and an exciting virtual experience for the public, educators and students.

During the mission, dubbed Aquarius 2007: If Reefs Could Talk,” scientists will study sponge biology, ecology and long-term monitoring of the area’s coral reefs and fish species. The fertile marine habitats face threats that the rest of the world’s reefs also encounter: disease, rising ocean temperatures and human factors such as pollution and overfishing.

The team will bring its research to students with undersea classroom sessions and to the public through Internet video. The goal is to generate interest in science and the oceans among young people.

Aquarius is owned by NOAA, administered through NOAA’s National Undersea Research Program, and operated by the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s National Undersea Research Center.

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