Today, my dad and I went snorkeling in the mangroves at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo Florida. The whole purpose of Mission 31 is to look at the health of the reefs, but we went to see what the mangroves look like. A lot of mangroves have been cut down, and we went to see what the health of the remaining mangroves are.
From above, mangroves look like plain old trees growing in water (and plain trees are never as plain as they seem), but we take a look at what's beneath the surface and see that each root is covered in a mass of colorful life.
These are what the roots look like:
And these are of the wildlife (mostly fish) that live in the mangroves: (You may notice that most of the fish are pretty small. Mangroves are a great place for fish to hide while they are young, and the roots are the perfect spot for fish to lay their eggs, so the mangroves are sort of like fish nurseries! This is part of what makes them so important to the environment.)
While I was at Mission Control with Aileen yesterday, she told me all about the hyperbaric chambers they have their. She showed me the smaller emergency chamber on the George F. Bond that can hold two people max at the same time, and she also showed me the larger hyperbaric chamber they have that can hold up to six at a time.
This is the smaller one aboard the George F. Bond:
Now lets go take a look at the big one! The big one is kept inside a special locked building just for it.
The purpose of the chamber is to rehabilitate the divers, basically. It makes sure that they have enough oxygen and helps them re-adjust to surface pressure.
Like everything else, there is a backup to a backup. Another hyperbaric chamber is at the nearby hospital, and the hospital staff are trained in hyperbaric medicine.
These are navy men volunteering. They help with the mission by assisting the divers and checking gear. They come from all over the nation, but work together in teams. They have one purpose, one mission, and that brings them together.
Today, I got to meet and talk with Aileen Soto! She gave me a "behind-the-scenes" tour of mission control. It was absolutely fantastic! Aileen is really nice, and she's absolutely a treasure trove of information about Aquarius!
First, she showed me the Tricaster.
The Tricaster is like a video control center. It monitors what's going on in the habitat through live footage. It can also record interviews, or any type of audio. It can also put the audio with the footage!
Next, she showed me the food stash.
The food is dehydrated and kept in plastic bags. There are lots of different meals.
To turn the bag of basically dried powder into a meal, the aquanauts microwave water to about boiling point and pour it into the bag. Unfortunately, after a few days the different meals start to all taste the same to the Aquanauts. Because of this, one of their favorite additions to food is hot sauce!
Food, and other supplies, are all transported to the habitat by pots. Pots basically look like cooking pots of various sizes, but are completely airtight and pressurized.
The pots are carried to the habitat by a topside ship. The ship most commonly used in this case is called the Sabrina. On average, three pots are down in the habitat at a time, and they are constantly being rotated out.
I bet that you use checklists as a part of your daily life. Don't we all? Grocery lists, to do lists... well the teams working with the mission do that too! They have checklists of duties, and these duties are more important than your chores at home. Dividing into teams makes sure everything gets done. Underneath the checklists are bins with stuff in them that needs to be put in pots and sent down to the habitat.
One of the things to be done is Watch Desk duty. While we were there, Roger was the one on desk duty. Roger is the head guy of everything at mission control.
One of the things at the desk is the "Bat Phone". The Bat Phone is a red phone that is used to communicate with the aquanauts while they are down in the habitat.
If the phone isn't working, there is a backup radio that is battery powered.
All of the jobs are very important. Here I got an inside look at Thor's office. All gear is checked and/or fixed here. He has a machine that checks the pressure.
Like I said, the jobs are all really important. Some people don't even leave Mission Control while the mission is underway! They use an outdoor shower with a curtain around it, and have to shower in the early morning so the neighbors aren't offended!
The shower is attached to the outer wall of the gear shed. The gear shed holds all of the gear, as well as the scooters.
This is a scooter. It's a little machine the divers sit on and travel around on sometimes in order to conserve their energy.
Check out the other blog posts for more of the cool stuff Aileen showed me at Aquarius!
Important and complicated science; fascinating discoveries; awesome experiences, and it all begins with a big mess. This is the truth behind field work, and it is officially the beginning of the second half of the mission. I'm here as your embedded teen reporter, giving you the big scoop on the behind-the-scenes-moments.
Please tell me you read that in a perky reporter voice. I could totally be on the breaking news, huh? Really though, there is some pretty cool stuff happening here. Just this morning, we went to wave off the aquanauts as they began their amazing part of this journey.
Left on shore, we had a mini-meeting in the training room, then went and discussed boat safety. Currently, we are back at the house, organizing and setting up the YSI tripod.
The tripod will be used as part of the measuring of the intake and output of ancient sponges. The tripod will be holding up instruments to measure the filtering of the sponge and the breathing rate in different water temperatures. The team will be measuring the particulates in the water to check how the sponges are filtering, assimilating food particles (how they are eating), and how they are breathing. We will also be checking the filtering rate, as this could be affected. Every couple days, all of the water in the reef goes through these sponges. Over thousands of years, these sponges have been filtering the reef. Now, with pollution and climate change, there may be unhealthy micro particles in the water, and we are seeing if these are getting filtered through the sponges and decreasing the health of the reef. If we can understand the impact of these different temperatures on the sponges, it will be informative on the impacts of climate change.
Next, we will be off to google chat with Richard Branson, then I will get to meet Aileen Soto!