Mission 31: Fabien Cousteau Aims to Top His Grandfather's Underwater Exploits

Posted: October 16, 2013  |  By: David Szondy [Gizmag]

Fabien Cousteau, filmmaker, explorer, and grandson of pioneering oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, is set to take a page out of his grandfather’s book by conducting a month-long scientific research mission in the world's only underwater habitat and laboratory. Mission 31 beings on Nov. 12 at the Aquarius Reef Base off the coast of the Florida Keys, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the elder Cousteau's historic Conshelf II habitat experiment.

In 1963, Jacques Cousteau established Conshelf II in the Red Sea off the coast of the Sudan. It was the second of the three Conshelf habitats, which were the first serious attempts at creating underwater bases. The effort was funded in part by the French petrochemical industry as a way of developing means to exploit the sea’s resources. The star-shaped Conshelf II sat 10 meters (33 feet) under the surface along with an underwater aquarium, a garage for Cousteau’s diving saucer “Denise,” and a deep-water outpost at a depth of 30 meters (100 feet).

A team of divers spent 30 days in Conshelf II with a pair of men staying a week in the deep outpost. This was the first time anyone had lived at such a depth for such a time and forged new frontiers in saturation diving. It was the subject of Cousteau’s film, World Without Sun, which won the 1964 Academy Award for Best Documentary.

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