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NOAA's Aquarius Featured on CNN.Com and ABCNEWS
This story entered on 20th Jul, 2005 12:52:13 PM PST

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Undersea Research Program featured on On July 20, 2005, NOAA's Aquarius was featured on as a result of a press conference on July 19 held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Background: Aquarius is an underwater ocean laboratory located in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The laboratory is deployed three and half miles offshore, at a depth of 60 feet, next to spectacular coral reefs. Scientists live in Aquarius during ten-day missions using saturation diving* to study and explore our coastal ocean. Aquarius is owned by NOAA and is operated by the NOAA Undersea Research Program Center at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

* Scientific divers that use SCUBA diving to conduct their research have limitations that can inhibit their productivity underwater. Limiting factors such as, diving depth, gas mixtures and supply, weather, and decompression obligations can have a significant impact on the amount of time a scientist will actually have to conduct their research underwater. By using a diving technique known as "saturation diving," scientists can lengthen the time they spend underwater. Once a diver is saturated at 60 foot depth, he can spend unlimited time around that depth and decompress once at end of his dive. The revolutionary development of undersea habitats (also known as undersea laboratories) has made "saturation" diving a reality for scientific divers. An undersea habitat is a pressurized facility that provides a living space for a small team of divers on the ocean floor and extends the depth ranges and time at depth for the divers.
Significance: NOAA's Aquarius is the only underwater laboratory in the world. The article published on stresses the importance of the Aquarius as a research tool. NOAA through its Undersea Research Program provides scientists the ability to live and work beneath the waves in the Aquarius undersea laboratory. The habitat accommodates four scientists and two technicians for missions averaging ten days. Aquarius successfully supported 80 missions between 1993 and Aquarius scientists work to understand our changing ocean and the condition of coral reefs. Coral reefs are threatened locally, regionally, and globally by ncreasing amounts of pollution, over-harvesting of fisheries, disease, and climate change. Science achievements from Aquarius include discoveries related to the damaging effects of ultraviolet light on coral reefs, geological studies that use fossil reefs to better understand the significance of present-day changes in coral reefs, research that is rewriting the book on how corals feed, growth studies of important sponges that uncovered surprising factors affecting their abundance and distribution, water quality studies to evaluate sources of pollution, and long-term studies of reefs to distinguish between changes caused by natural system variability and humans.

More information:

Contact information
Name: Barbara Moore
Tel: (301) 713-2427


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Updated: August 2, 2005