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Aquarius Undersea Laboratory

Aquarius Reef Base gives researchers and divers the convenience of living in their underwater field site without sacrificing the comforts of home. Made to withstand the pressure of ocean depths up to 120 feet, the lab currently sits in a sand patch adjacent to the deep coral reefs of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Overview

Aquarius is a three-part system:

Life Support Bouy

10-meter diameter buoy that provides communication and air supply.

Habitat

82-ton underwater laboratory which houses living and work space for 6 person crew.

Base Plate

120-ton stable platform on which Aquarius is mounted.

Explore Habitat

Approximately 400 square feet of laboratory and living space is available for operations and science. The fully equipped underwater laboratory consists of several components.

Floor Plan

Port Side

Starboard

Lab

The habitat itself is a 43 x 20 x 16.5 foot diameter steel cylinder divided into three compartments, each serving a specific function:

  • Wet Porch - the seawater interface and main point of entry
  • Two pressure locks known as the Entry Lock and Main Lock, sized at 500 and 1400 cubic feet, respectively
  • Equipped with wireless internet, cellular telephones, video conferencing equipment and VHF radio

Living Quarters

The air-conditioned vessel features:

  • Six bunks
  • Freshwater shower
  • Toilet
  • Instant hot water
  • Microwave and refrigerator

By the Numbers

Aquarius can be used in a variety of capacities depending on project requirements.

  • Distance
    • From Islamorada shore base: 15.4 km (8.5 nm)
    • Offshore: 9 km (5.4 nm)
  • Depth
    • Hatch depth/storage depth: 14 m (46 fsw) 35 psi
    • From the surface 63 feet
    • Base plate positions habitat: 13 feet off the bottom
    • Working depth in lab: 50 feet
    • Depth of bottom directly below: 18 m (60 fsw)
  • Telecommunications
    • 1 GB Ethernet from Aquarius to the LSB via umbilical
    • From LSB to Shore Motorola PTP 600 series wireless bridge (maximum: 180 Mbps; minimum 75 Mbps)
    • A DS3 (50 mbps) connection to the world from base
    • Multiple video feeds via web cams inside and outside
      • Internal feeds (3): Wet porch, entry and main lock
      • External feeds (4): Gazebo, starboard aft, (2) repositionable
      • Polycom, Skype and Google video conferencing capabilities
    • Diver underwater communications
      • Diver to diver
      • Diver to Aquarius
      • Diver to Shore
  • Support
    • Maximum Crew: 4 scientists and 2 technicians
    • Amenities: kitchen facilities including a microwave, instant hot water dispenser, refrigerator, sink, dining and work areas, computer work stations and Internet access
    • Independent life support: 72 hours minimum power, high pressure, oxygen and carbon dioxide removal

Communications

No matter how the lab is used, continual power and telecommunications capabilities make Aquarius an ideal platform for research projects, advanced sensor development, long-term monitoring of coastal oceans and coral reefs and education and outreach. Web cameras operate during missions with cameras inside and outside Aquarius. Live broadcasts (webcasts and special videoconferencing opportunities) are frequently conducted that involve schools, museums, and aquariums across the country.