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?


Experts

Meet the experts featured in this episode.


Special Thanks:


Bayside Inn Key Largo
99490 Overseas Highway
Key Largo, FL 33037
(800) 242-5229

The Pelican
99340 Overseas Highway
Key Largo, FL 33037
(877) 451-3576

Image Credits

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:

Chris Martens, Ph.D.
UNC-Chapel Hill
Department of Marine Sciences

Dominic Landucci
NOAA’s Aquarius Reef Base

Mario Deas

National Park Service
South Florida/Caribbean Inventory and Monitoring Network

Justin B. Ries, Ph.D.
UNC-Chapel Hill
Department of Marine Sciences

Tom Kleindinst
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

NASA

NASA World Wind


Web Extras

Aquanaut Technology

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.


Funding for this episode of Changing Seas was provided by: