How Humans Learned To Live Under Water

Every American knows the names Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. At the dawn of the space age, another frontier was under exploration, too—although it never had the fanfare or funding that the astronauts received. » 8/03/12 11:00am 8/03/12 11:00am

The Extreme Difficulty of Leaving an Underwater Base

It was just another day for the Aquanauts exploring the warm, crystal waters of Conch Reef when a storm hit. The divers registered the 10-degree temperature drop on their skin a moment after the visibility went from 60 feet down to a dozen. » 7/24/12 2:20pm 7/24/12 2:20pm

Getting Married in an Undersea Base

Otto Rutten got married to Leanne in the Aquarius Reef Base on March 26th, 1996. They met at Aquarius during his first day on the job. She was a marine biologist doing aquanaut training and he, being the new guy, was assigned to count laps during the swimming drill. » 7/19/12 2:40pm 7/19/12 2:40pm

How NASA Uses the Ocean to Train Astronauts for its Most Dangerous…

The astronauts are wearing white suits with American flags and mission patches on them. They're aware but unworried about the hostile environment inches away from their noses. They'd be dead in seconds if it were not for their air supply. As they bound nimbly along in a state of near-weightlessness, all each… » 7/19/12 11:00am 7/19/12 11:00am

There Is No Such Thing as Normal When You Live at the Bottom of the Sea

The Aquanauts had killed the power and strapped on their emergency air masks. Someone smelled burning. In a rich-oxygen environment like Aquarius, fires can spread with ferocity; any hint of combustion is taken with utter seriousness. The air wasn't circulating as it was supposed to, and, up above, the life support… » 7/18/12 5:00pm 7/18/12 5:00pm

How You Connect an Underwater Outpost to the Rest of the World

You think resetting your router or calling the cable company when your Internet goes out is a pain in the ass? When the network sputtered at Aquarius undersea research base, Dominic Landucci had to dive down with a spool burial-grade cat-5 cable and punch it through the side of the lab without flooding the entire… » 7/18/12 11:20am 7/18/12 11:20am

The Watch Desk Is Always Watching

Once, in the middle of a storm, while everyone was asleep in the undersea base, the fuel that's stored in the life support buoy sloshed around enough to stop one of the two generators. The generators power the air supply compressor that keeps everyone in the Aquarius undersea base alive. So what do the Aquanauts have… » 7/17/12 3:40pm 7/17/12 3:40pm

How You Get Dry Supplies to an Underwater Base—Without a Submarine

You think carrying your grocery and laundry into your 5th-floor walkup is a pain in the ass? Try bringing that stuff into an undersea base without it getting soaked. How do you do it? The answer is surprisingly low-tech: pressure pots. » 7/17/12 10:40am 7/17/12 10:40am

This Is How You Live at the Bottom of the Ocean

You can see it from the surface of the water: a blue outline 50 feet down. Aquarius. The last undersea base. Diving down to it is like falling slowly into another world. » 7/16/12 4:20pm 7/16/12 4:20pm

Searching for the Ocean's Secrets From the Last Undersea Base

Two days ago, in the ocean a few miles off Key Largo Florida, I watched a woman dive 20 feet down to a sandy bottom. Conch skittered across sea floor while fish pecked at a nearby reef. A Barracuda snuck up behind me and glittered as it passed by. Then, an odd thing happened. The woman on the sea floor stopped… » 7/13/12 2:00pm 7/13/12 2:00pm