Reports from Aquarius: Mission 31 updates

Matthew Ferraro’s blog from Mission 31-Part 3.

Into the Night….

The evenings here at Aqaurius are a special time. As the surrounding sea goes dark the lights outside the two port views turn on and with it comes a veritable fireworks display of undersea life. There are two large view ports in Aqaurius, one at the dining table and one in the bunk room. Every night we gather around the view port at the dining table and wait to see what happens.

Sylvia the Goliath grouper (named after Dr. Sylvia Earle) peeks in on us at the dinner table. Photo by Fabien Cousteau.

Sometimes not much is going on but other times it is absolutely spectacular, like this:

The bunk room view port often puts on a show of it own. All the Aquanauts sleep with their heads on the opposite side of the room from the view port so they can look out the window as they doze off. But when the tarpon pass close to the light it is like a strobe going off! It is so cool it is hard to sleep sometimes!

The flash of tarpon illuminated by the Aqaurius bow light through bunk room view port. Photo by Fabien Cousteau.

Last night was a big night for us. It was the last chance for us to have a night dive before we decompress and our hope was to set up over a dozen lights to bring the shape of Aqaurius to life in the dark (big thanks to Backscatter and Light and Motion!). We have two 20,000 lumen Sea Wolf Orcas, 6 L&M Sola 4000’s, and a surface supplied 1200W HMI just to name a few. Fabien, Liz Magee and myself got an early start to get the lights set up. Our topside support dive team joined us later to swim the light and cable that ran to the surface and to shoot a second camera. It was a big task to coordinate everyone but that was also part of the fun! In the end I’d say we were pretty happy with the results.

Aqaunauts Fabien Cousteau and Liz Magee back lit in front of Aqaurius.

Things are winding down here as the mission comes to a close. Our final dive will be this morning and I hope to pick up a few last shots before we begin our 17 1/2 hour decompression. There is still lots to do, packing up and sending all our equipment in pressure pots back up the surface. Though I am excited to go back to the surface and see my wife, Carrie (who is carrying our first child), and our dog, Samantha, it is still hard to leave. There is a lot I will miss about this place, like the other Aquanauts and camaraderie, but most of all I will miss the wildlife. Aqaurius itself is a living reef and is home to many creatures both large and small. I give my thanks to them for putting up with my intrusion and bright lights. I hope to see you all again!

Aqaunaut Liz Magee says goodbye to a friend.

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