In 1986, the George F. Bond was built. It is an underwater habitat that is owned by NOAA. By 1992, after surviving Hurricane Hugo in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the habitat was renamed the Aquarius and was relocated to the Florida Keys where it currently resides.
|Credit: Leonard Ho, AdvancedAquarist.com|
The habitat is a research base for Aquanauts wishing to spend up to 10 days, 66 feet underwater. Why is this important for research? If one were to dive from the surface with a SCUBA tank to a depth of 66 feet, you'd have an hour before having to re-appear on surface. Basing oneself in the Aquarius, at 66 feet, leaving the habitat in SCUBA allows for up to 9 hours of research before having to return to Aquarius.
This facility allows researchers a decent amount of dive time to explore the Floridian coral reef system. Since coral reefs are an early indicator of environmental changes, studying their behavior is important. Additional research has been conducted by NASA for their NEEMO program since 2001.
NOAA, along with the University of North Carolina at Willmington, were the main funding force behind Aquarius. In September of 2012, with the recession taking effect in all sectors of society, Aquarius was cut from their budgets. Approximately $3 million dollars were spent each year on maintaining it's structure from the effects of salt water, hurricanes and use as a research base. For a short time it seemed the life of Aquarius had come to an end.
This month, Florida International University (FIU) has negotiated with NOAA and funding has resumed through a grant from NOAA with FIU taking over direction of the lab. This is excellent news for the research community to continue use of the Aquarius for another year.
Lam, Brian. "The more-certain future of Aquarius, the last undersea science lab." BoingBoing. 23 January 2013. Web. 27 January 2013. <http://boingboing.net/2013/01/23/the-more-certain-future-of-aqu.html>.
Morgan, Curtis. "FIU to take over underwater lab in Keys." Miami Herald. 16 January 2013. Web. 27 January 2013. <http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/01/15/3184148/fiu-to-take-over-underwater-lab.html>.