Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s grandson, Fabien is planning on breaking his famous conservationist and deep sea diving grandfather’s underwater record of living beneath the sea for 30 days, by spending one additional day beneath the ocean’s surface, to break the record at 31. He is performing underwater research on the Florida coral reef in association with Florida International University (FIU) and Northeastern University. A team from FIU along with Fabien Cousteau went down to his vessel called Aquarius on June 1. The FIU team resurfaced on June 16, the mid-point of the 31 day experience and were replaced by a team from Northeastern to continue the research until July 2 when all of the occupants will resurface. The adventure is being called “Mission 31” to commemorate the number of days Fabien expects to live below the sea.
The Aquarius is the only laboratory in the world where researchers can study the impact of ocean pollution, observe the behavior of fish, look into the warming of the seas and how coral reefs could be affected, and measure the effects prolonged underwater exposure can have on the human body. Fabien and his team of documentary filmmakers and researchers have already spent three weeks underwater. The experiment is occurring 50 years after Jacques had his original 30 days beneath the Red Sea, where he and others filmed the documentary World Without Sun, which won an Oscar in 1963.
Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s grandson Fabien has likened his effort to break his grandfather’s underwater record to living in the international space station because of the confined space and dissociation from the rest of the world the experience provides. The Aquarius, his laboratory, is about 50 feet below the ocean’s surface and over three miles from the coast of Key Largo, Florida. The vessel is described to be around the size of a school bus, but with all the modern conveniences associated with a small apartment. There is Wi-Fi to allow the crew to document their adventures via social media, air conditioning and even a stocked kitchen. The Aquarius can sleep six in bunk beds and anything else they may need can be delivered daily by scuba divers via a vacuum-sealed large pot.
The days below the ocean’s surface are over 18 hours long for the crew, and the sleeping quarters are close together which can make resting difficult as there are a number of “snorers” in the group. The researchers however, have said that they fall asleep almost immediately after the day’s work. The crew has had other ways to stay busy as well with visits from Adrian Grenier who is best known for his star role in Entourage, and NASA Astronaut Clayton Anderson. The artist Wyland also visited last week and painted a portrait of Fabien’s grandfather from the ocean floor with environmentally friendly paints.
Fabien hopes that his adventure will bring attention to a new generation in terms of ocean exploration and how it is believed only five percent of the entire ocean has been properly studied. He said that it was never impressed upon him to follow in the family tradition of ocean exploration, but since he grew up living part-time on two of his grandfather’s boats, Alcyone and Calypso, he gained an appreciation for the sea and its majestic beauty. Being Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s grandson of course has fueled his desire, and opened various doors for Fabien to be able to attempt to break his grandfather’s underwater living record of 30 days beneath the sea.
By B. Taylor Rash