Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Deepsea Habitats

Aquarius underwater laboratory on Conch Reef, ...Image via Wikipedia

Scientific divers that use SCUBA diving to conduct their research do 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. Saturation diving, a technique developed by the U.S. Navy in the 1950s, has proven to be useful to several scientists to extend their work time. Saturation diving works on the premise that if a diver's tissues are in equilibrium with the surrounding water, then the decompression time will not change for the length of time spent underwater. This "saturation" process takes approximately 24 hours and means that the diver needs to remain at the same depth.

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 small teams of divers on the ocean floor that extends the depth ranges and time at depth for the divers.Aquarius resides in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, at a depth of 63 feet Divers can either undergo compression and decompression at depth in the undersea habitat or in a surface chamber.

Undersea HabitatsNURP provides the ability to live and work beneath the waves in the Aquarius undersea laboratory (right), the only undersea habitat in the world devoted to science. The habitat, owned by NOAA and operated by the Southeastern & Gulf of Mexico center, is located three miles off Key Largo in 20 m (64 ft) at the base of a coral reef within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, an ideal site for studying the health of sensitive coastal ecosystems. The habitat accommodates four scientists and two technicians for missions averaging ten days. Aquarius successfully supported 80 missions between 1993 and 2003.
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Thanks to Deep Sea Waters

Kathy Dowsett

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