Mission 31: Jacques Cousteau's Grandson Just Spent A Month Underwater

Fabian Cousteau, grandson of marine explorer Jacques Cousteau, has concluded Mission 31, an experiment for which he spent a month living at the bottom of the ocean.

Cousteau and his team of of scientists and filmmakers began their decompression on Tuesday (July 1st) before surfacing the next day, The National Post reports. The team had descended to the Aquarius Reef Base, located almost 60 feet below the ocean's surface off the coast of Key Largo, on June 1st to begin Mission 31, studying the effects of climate change and pollution on a nearby coral reef. Conceived as a tribute of sorts to Conshelf II, a 30-day-long underwater living experiment that Jacques Cousteau undertook in the Red Sea, Mission 31 allowed researchers to gather in just a few weeks an amount of data that would normally require two years worth of work.

Cousteau broadcast the entire experiment online in real time, as The Inquisitr reported he would. Joined by two technicians for the full 31 days, Cousteau also welcomed researchers and filmmakers from MIT, Florida International University, and Northeastern University for two week stretches during the mission. Working from the reef base, which allows divers to operate at depth for up to 9 hours without having to decompress or surface, Cousteau and his team were able to accomplish a wide variety of experiments.

The researchers set up long-term monitoring equipment to study ocean acidification, and used probes on the coral reef that are as thin as a human hair. They were able to study overfishing of predators, and the resulting effects on prey animals. At one point in the mission, Cousteau got to see the results of predation up close, watching a goliath grouper nicknamed Sylvia attack a barracuda. According to The Miami Herald, Kip Evans,a videographer working with Cousteau, was able to capture the moment on film.

Cousteau asserts that the data collected during Mission 31 will likely lead to at least 10 scientific papers, yet he believe that the expedition's main goal was something altogether different:

"To reach as many people around the world for 31 days as possible to empower and impassion future generations to care about the oceans, to cherish them, to be curious about them in a way that was during my grandfather's era."
Having broadcast the experiment to six continents, Fabian Cousteau declared upon surfacing that Mission 31 was a major success.

[Images via National Post]