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The Aquarius Reef Base sits 60 feet underwater, three and a half miles off the Florida coast. Sylvia Earle, the legendary 76-year-old oceanographer, is there on a final trip before the station closes for good. That is, unless it can get enough funding to continue. See the pictures and hear Earle’s appeal.
The Aquarius Reef Base, an underwater ocean laboratory in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, is a home away from home for certain lucky scientists, who get to spend days at a time on missions while living at the lab.
The Reef Base is three and a half miles miles offshore, 60 feet underwater, and has been the site of many accomplishments in its 22-year history: researching sea sponges (don’t laugh, they’re a source of cancer drugs), discovering a disease pathogen that obliterated large hard corals in the Florida Keys, training NASA astronauts for their journeys into space, and more. And now, unless new funding is found, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) will shut it down.
Sylvia Earle (a legendary 76-year-old oceanographer and National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence) and a team of aquanauts embarked this week on a six-day expedition down to Aquarius Reef Base–a cylindrical steel chamber that’s 43 feet long and nine feet in diameter–in what may be the last journey to the underwater lab. The journey is a celebration of 50 years of humans living beneath the sea.
“It’s always been a bit of a struggle,” Earle tells us in a call from the Internet, video, and cell-phone equipped Reef Base. “I was chief scientist of NOAA in the early 1990s. It was a time even then when it was hard to convince the powers that be that it was a worthy expenditure of hard-won taxpayer resources, but the dividends that have come forth are really important.”
via FastCoExist – Ariel Schwartz
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