Hannah Stewart is the controlled flow environment specialist on the mission at Aquarius, where a team of six aquanauts will spend nine days in the underwater laboratory 63 feet below the ocean’s surface in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Friday, 16 Jun 2000


CONCH REEF, Fla. We got a bit of a sleep-in today. Jim and I headed out at 7:00 a.m., followed shortly by Mike and Greg. We went to a new research site, the Pinnacles, about a 15-minute swim along an excursion line southeast of Aquarius. There is a small air-filled dome (gazebo) at the end of the excursion line and upon arrival we entered and reported back to Aquarius through a voice-activated radio inside the dome. We also filled our tanks and listened for the test of the “Whooper” — the emergency recall alarm that is broadcast from the Habitat, through the water across the reef, in the event that we are needed back at the Habitat.

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“WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP” and we are cleared to continue our dive.

We ran a cave reel line from the gazebo, down the reef slope to 105 feet, where we took water samples throughout the several internal tides that came up and licked the reef with their cold tongues. We use the cave reel lines to help us navigate whenever we get off the main grid of permanent navigation lines at the Aquarius site. We also had a camera with us and Jim got an excellent shot of a small porcupine fish peering out of a barrel sponge, its big cow eyes just over the lip of the sponge. Then a strange sight, a trumpetfish swimming right next to a Hogfish, as if glued to it, up and over a coral head, under a ledge — inseparable. Finally, the Hogfish lost its fishy shadow, when the trumpetfish joined another trumpetfish between the branches of a soft coral. Greg and Mike came and took over the water sampling and Jim and I went to fill our tanks and cruise back over the reef to the Habitat for lunch.

After a lunch and a hard nap, Jim and I headed out to the deep S4 (the S4 is the name of a current meter we use) site for more sampling and to run some transect lines to determine the distribution of algae deep in the sand flats, while Mike and Greg donned their AGA gear and began setting up the ADV (the acoustic Dopler velocimeter, which measures fine scale water flow). The cold pulses of water continued until about 3:00 p.m., when the current picked up and the water stayed warm. A big green turtle came by to see what we were doing. She had several large barnacles on her shell. A school of juvenile yellow-tail jacks paraded across our path as we swam back up to Aquarius.

Tonight, as we ate our dinner, a huge cloud of zooplankton swarmed at the dining table porthole, attracted to the outside lights, at times so thick as to completely block out the view. It dispersed eventually, but I did wonder why it wasn’t eaten up immediately by some of the fish that live around the Habitat.

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We found the freeze-dried desserts in one of our food tubs tonight. Just add water and voila — raspberry crumble! Now a nice cup of Milo, some antibiotic cream for the sore spot behind my knees where my wetsuit has been chafing, and off to bed.

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