After 31 days 60-feet beneath the turquoise waters off the Florida Keys in a 43-foot-long vessel about the size of a school bus, Fabien Cousteau, grandson of famed French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, stepped off a boat wearing flip-flops and a beach towel wrapped around his waist and declared he was torn about leaving his underwater home, but he missed his family and friends.
He had by all accounts completed a remarkable mission. The French oceanographer spent over four weeks beneath the ocean in an underwater lab, studying marine life and promoting ocean conservation.
Residing in his vessel, the Aquarius, which was fitted with a number of home comforts, including, a kitchen, a shower, six bunks and wireless internet, the younger Cousteau paid homage to his grandfather as well as sweeping aside his famous relatives' record of spending 30 days underwater.
Mission 31, as it is known, went off without barely a hitch save for one evening: "One night the air conditioning stopped working and it got to 95 degrees (35 C) and 95 percent humidity," said Andrew Shantz, a Ph.D. candidate in marine eco-science at Florida International University, who spent 17 days in the lab in the beginning of June.
"We saw a Goliath grouper attack a big barracuda, which is something I never imagined happening," Shantz said.
Because they've spent so much time underwater, Cousteau and his "Mission 31" crew needed to undergo roughly 16 hours of decompression inside the school bus-sized lab so that they could return to the surface without suffering the bends.