The mission was scheduled for last year, but the government shutdown meant the team was unable to secure the permits it needed. After a near six-month wait, the team went down with the intention of breaking the 30 day record that the more famous Cousteau set and emerged from the sea today victorious.
The lab, which is operated by Florida International University (FIU), is submerged 63 feet below the surface in the Florida keys and has six bunk beds, a kitchen, air conditioning, computers, and running hot water played host to Cousteau and two others for a full 31 days while other scientists and visitors rotated in and out of the lab.
“It was amazing how much it felt like home,” said Cousteau. “I can imagine for someone who doesn’t like tight spaces it could be much more difficult,” he added.
Despite the creature comforts, the idea behind the mission was to spend as much time as possible outside the vessel essentially living in an aquarium when at “home” as the fish seemed to be watching them.
Cousteau’s serious research
This was not a stunt by any means, and Cousteau hopes to have done enough research with his teammates to author no less that ten scientific papers. The group also installed a number of monitoring systems that they can use for the long-term to further their research.
Beginning their work from the Aquarius rather than diving from the surface is a huge time saver remarked FIU’s Andy Shantz who spent the first part of the mission with the three “permanent” residents. He estimated that the group was able to collect six months of data over the 31 days.
The decompression process yesterday took just 15 minutes shy of 16 full hours.
“I personally would have loved to have continued beyond 31 days,” Cousteau said at a news conference, hours after he took his first breath of fresh air in a month.
“I didn’t know how I was going to react — physically, psychologically,” Cousteau said of his time living in a small vessel on the ocean floor. “And it was amazing how much it felt like home.”