Episode 102: Mission to Inner Space
They call it “inner space.” It’s an inhospitable environment that’s difficult to explore and unfit for human habitation. Nevertheless, scientists have figured out ways to live and work on the ocean floor.
The Aquarius Undersea Laboratory is the only underwater operating station in the world today. Located inside the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, at 60 feet below the ocean’s surface, this unique facility provides researchers around the clock access to the nearby coral reef. Known as “America’s Inner Space Station,” the Aquarius Reef Base becomes home to a select few as they spend 10 straight days underwater. During this specific mission, a team of ‘Aquanauts,’ or saturation divers, studies the local effects of a global problem, ocean acidification.
Ocean acidification is caused by a change in the water’s chemistry. Increased levels of CO2 in the water are causing lowered pH levels, making it potentially more difficult for organisms like corals to form their calcium carbonate skeletons. This Aquarius mission is unique in that it is the first ocean acidification study during which aquanauts conduct various experiments and take continuous measurements while living out on a coral reef. What will their findings tell us?
Meet the experts featured in this episode.
Changing Seas would like to thank the following individuals and institutions who kindly allowed their footage, images and other media to be used in this production:
NOAA’s Aquarius Reef Base
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
What does it take to work for several hours underwater? Aquanauts at Florida's Aquarius Undersea Laboratory in Key Largo use special equipment that allows for saturation diving 60 feet below the ocean's surface. Operations Manager for NOAA's Aquarius shorebased headquarters Mark Hulsbeck explains the the tools and equipment used by aquanauts.