As the grandson of famed oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Fabien Cousteau has big flippers to fill. The Boston University grad is living in Key Largo for his latest project, Mission 31—in new digs 63 feet underwater. During the 50th anniversary of his grandfather’s 30-day experiment under the Red Sea, Cousteau will stay submerged for 31 days, from June 1 to July 2, conducting research from Aquarius, a roughly 300-square-foot station. It’s also hosting visiting divers, including Northeastern University diving officer Liz Bentley Magee. She tells us about her first day as an ocean dweller.
5 am For once I don’t feel the need to hit my snooze button. I’m too excited to stay in bed—plus, I have a bit more packing to do!
7 am My gear is loaded on a boat to be brought to the Aquarius habitat. They use giant pressure cooker-type pots to bring everything down.
7:30 am Right on time! We push off the dock.
8:15 am We arrive at Aquarius, 8 miles offshore. It’s a sunny day, with calm waters. I, however, am not calm—I’m excited to get down!
8:40 am A buddy team of divers leave the boat to assist with the switch-out. We’re replacing three members of the Mission 31 team for the remainder of the project.
9:10 am Team No. 1 arrives at the surface. The Navy doctor on staff checks them to make sure they’re not suffering any signs of decompression sickness, otherwise known as the “bends.”
9:30 am I hop in the water and dive down.
9:35 am Fabien Cousteau is there to greet meet when I pop up out of the moon pool. So cool! It smells kind of weird, and my ears constantly feel like I’m on a plane. Also, my voice is much higher than on the surface.
10 am I’m told how to exit the habitat in the case of an emergency, which also happens to be the same protocol for using the bathroom.
10:30 am I make my bunk, where I’ll be sleeping for the next two weeks. I have an excellent view of the coral reef outside my window. I think you’d call this an “ocean view” room.
11 am I’m halfway through lunch (noodles) before I realize I’m eating underwater! I eat while talking with the Aquarius technicians and Cousteau about their past two weeks.
2 pm I wave to my husband and mom via the 24-hour camera that live feeds from Aquarius, then check my email, tweet and catch up on expedition plans.
3:30 pm Time to get ready for our first excursion.
4:30 pm We start the longest dive of my life. During 3 1/2 hours, we set up zooplankton traps, measure temperature, depth and other aspects of the water column and scope out sites to set up experiments. Finally, we turn on my helmet camera and Skype with the Northeastern Marine Science Center in Nahant.
8:30 pm I return to Aquarius, rinse off, drink hot cocoa and make a game plan for tomorrow’s dive.
10 pm I’m finally going to bed after a very long but very exciting dive. I’ve got 13 more days underwater, and I can’t wait.
Head to mos.org for details on a live conversation with Cousteau on June 26 at the Museum of Science.