August 26th, 2010
02:39 PM ET

Aquanauts living on, researching ocean's floor

Scientists live in Aquarius, the world's only undersea research station.

Claustrophobes, this one isn't for you.

Scientists call it being "saturated" or living on the Aquarius, a structure about the size of a school bus that sits at the bottom of the ocean floor, a little more than 5 file miles offshore of Key Largo, Florida.

Only the savviest and most experienced of diving scientists (some with as many as 800 dives under their belt) sign on and make it through five days of training required to take the extended-stay plunge, said spokesperson Thomas Potts, who just recently came up from air.

Owned by the NOAA and managed by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Aquarius has a sophisticated lab on board to study sponges, vital to understanding the underwater ecosystem. Take a peek inside.

"When you're on a typical dive, you're safe spot is the surface so you have to get over that - you can't come up," Potts said. "You've also got to be pretty good friends with the people you're saturated with because it's close living quarters."

The living space is 43 feet by 9 feet.

"It's really not as bad as that sounds," Potts added.

A UNCW professor and several graduate students and technicians just finished a nine-day stay on Aquarius. The next mission for the lab is scheduled for September 14.

To learn more about Aquarius and the research divers are conducting, click here.

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Filed under: Florida • North Carolina • Science
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Tony

    Commercial saturation divers do this around the world all of the time and for much longer periods. They do come up to a pressure chamber everyday but it's the same thing. They typically spend 30 days or more so 9 days is nothing. My son is such a diver and he is currently in his third week on a dive in the gulf.

    August 26, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. lordpet

    At what depth? Come on CNN

    August 26, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. riffraff57

    If you watched the video it said it was 63' deep. Look at the take a peek link.

    August 27, 2010 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |