Jacques Cousteau's grandson aims for record 31 days undersea

MIAMI Sat May 31, 2014 9:07am EDT

APRIL 9 1995 FILER - Captain Jacques Yves Cousteau, the French marine explorer died in Paris June 25. Cousteau, 87, campaigned vigourously against marine pollution. He popularised underwater exploration with the help of a French engineer Emile Gagnan when they built the first skin-diving suit in 1943.FRANCE COUSTEAU - RTR4RNZ

APRIL 9 1995 FILER - Captain Jacques Yves Cousteau, the French marine explorer died in Paris June 25. Cousteau, 87, campaigned vigourously against marine pollution. He popularised underwater exploration with the help of a French engineer Emile Gagnan when they built the first skin-diving suit in 1943.FRANCE COUSTEAU - RTR4RNZ

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MIAMI (Reuters) - The grandson of famed oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau will embark on a month-long stay inside an undersea laboratory off the Florida Keys in an attempt to break a half-century-old record set by his late grandfather.

After years of planning and delays, Fabien Cousteau will make a 60-foot (18-meter) dive on Sunday in an attempt to spend 31 days in a laboratory known as Aquarius, observing fish behavior, studying the impact of ocean pollution and warming seas on coral reefs, and measuring the effect of lengthy underwater stays on the human body.

"There are a lot of challenges physically and psychologically," said Cousteau, 46, who was born in Paris and grew up on his grandfather's ships, Calypso and Alcyone.

"The benefit is that the backyard is infinite."

Cousteau will be living and working underwater with a team of researchers and documentary filmmakers. If he succeeds in spending the entire time submerged, Cousteau will beat the 30-day underwater record set 50 years ago in the Red Sea by his grandfather.

The cylindrical 43-foot (13-meter) Aquarius is the last undersea laboratory still operating. It sits on a patch of sand near deep coral reefs about 9 miles (14.5 km) south of Key Largo, Florida.

It is "the best-kept secret in the oceans," Cousteau told Reuters in 2013.

Dozens of other undersea labs around the world have been mothballed due to high costs. In 1963, Jacques-Yves Cousteau along with a half-dozen divers he dubbed oceanauts spent 30 days inside an undersea lab called Conshelf II near the Port of Sudan.

Aquarius is air conditioned with wireless Internet access, a shower, a bathroom, six bunks and portholes that give the occupants a 24-hour view of the surrounding marine life.

The living space is at a depth where the atmospheric pressure is roughly two-and-a-half to three times that at the surface. It will be pressurized to prevent decompression sickness, when human tissue absorbs gases like nitrogen in dangerously high volumes.

Beyond the otherworldly experience, the benefit of living underwater is it will help scientists with their day-to-day research and data collection.

Researchers studying the effects of coral bleaching – when warming waters prompt the living coral to expel the colorful algae living inside – will depart Aquarius at the crack of dawn each morning to study the reefs' energy production before the day begins.

"Day in, day out, our science schedule is pretty repetitive. I think the documentary guys are going to get bored," said Andrew Shantz, a Ph.D. candidate in marine ecoscience at Florida International University, who will spend 17 days in the lab.

Following the morning dive, teams will return to the station to speak via Skype with classrooms around the world and test how the extended stay at depth affects their bodies.

They will re-emerge from Aquarius in scuba gear around noon and after night falls to collect additional data that would be impossible without the underwater lab.

"You end up getting these structured, regimented observations that you don't get on a single dive," Shantz said.

(Editing by Kevin Gray and Jan Paschal)

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Comments (4)
P3Professor wrote:
I would like to suggest to the the authors of this report that it is entirely unfair to the thousands of men that have served in the submarine force of many nations, that they are not considered the record holders for time underwater. I think that this merits another look. I certainly do not have the power or influence to change what Cousteau’s nephew is going for, but I assure you that his 31 day bid falls short of what many have done. I simply ask, why are those not considered? Why does the man with the celebrity name get the opportunity? I think it is unfair and sad.

Jun 01, 2014 5:35pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
toms14 wrote:
it is nothing special.Yes the submariners are living underwater.I was a submariner and lived more than 45 days under water in ekm-Russian origin submarine with out any outside world contacts!!!

Jun 02, 2014 3:15am EDT  --  Report as abuse
RM2SS wrote:
31 days? A record? Sorry. I personally have done 127 days submerged continuously, on a US Navy submarine, and that is hardly the record either. Do a little research before you insult thousands of people.

Jun 02, 2014 11:59pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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