Chapter 3 Science Aboard Ships

Chapter 3 Science Aboard Ships

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We can never know for sure who was the first person to dive beneath the waves in search of food or artifacts, but we do know that ancient peoples—perhaps as far back as one hundred thousand years ago—collected shells, shellfish, and other valuable undersea resources along the coastline (e.g., Will et al. 2019). As human use of the ocean grew for military, economic, and industrial purposes, so too did the need to know more about the ocean. The fields of marine biology, oceanography, and fisheries science emerged as scientific quests to apply knowledge of the sea for human purposes (e.g., Mills 2012).

In the next three chapters, we explore the approaches and technologies used to carry out ocean science—the methods of an oceanographer. Admittedly, a tour of methods might seem a bit like wandering through a home improvement store. (Indeed, oceanographers often shop at these stores—you can never have enough duct tape on board a rolling ship.) But a brief survey of these technologies will help you appreciate the myriad ways in which oceanographers are probing and learning about the world ocean. This appreciation will help you better understand the team approach to ocean science and the interconnectedness of processes in the ocean.

My friend and colleague UC Santa Barbara physical oceanographer Tommy Dickey (b. 1945) spent his career pushing the boundaries of ocean science through application of new technology. In his 2020 paper “New Discoveries Enabled by the Emergence of High-Resolution, Long-Term Interdisciplinary Ocean Observations,” he wrote:

The vastness and inhospitable nature of our oceans has limited our ability to understand oceanic phenomena and to make ocean predictions. Great progress in sampling the vertical and temporal variability of the ocean was made with new sensors and moorings in the period of 1980–2000; however there remain major challenges to adequately sample the full three-dimensional and temporal variability of the interior ocean.

3.1 The Birth of Oceanography

While many important scientific expeditions took place in the nineteenth century, one above all, the Challenger expedition (1872–1876), brought together the interdisciplinary approaches that would characterize the field of oceanography in modern times. Oceanographer and marine biologist Henry Bigelow (1879–1967), who helped found the world-famous Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts, wrote in his 1931 textbook, Oceanography, “Students of the history of science may well date the birth of modern oceanography from December 21, 1872, the date when put to sea from Plymouth, England.” Indeed, the Challenger expedition was the first devoted entirely to ocean science. A decade after their voyage, expedition leader Sir Charles Wyville Thomson (1830–1882) and oceanographer John Murray (1841–1914) wrote:

The vast ocean lay scientifically unexplored. All the efforts of the previous decade had been directed to the strips of water round the coast and to enclosed or partially enclosed seas. . . . This consideration led to the conception of the idea of a great exploring expedition which should circumnavigate the globe, find out the most profound abysses of the ocean, and extract from them some sign of what went on at the greatest depths. (Thomson and Murray 1885)

The Challenger expedition gained fame for its ambitious plan and the magnitude of its accomplishments, which filled 50 printed volumes. But perhaps most lasting among its contributions was its influence on the way oceanographers sample the ocean, a sampling approach that remains an integral part of oceanographic research more than 150 years later.

3.2 Sampling over Space: The Hydrographic Station

Since the days of the Challenger expedition, shipboard oceanography has used a sampling approach based on grids of points stretched over a region of interest. As Thomson describes it, “At intervals as nearly uniform as possible, we established 362 observing stations” (Thomson 1877). Thomson’s observing stations are now known as hydrographic stations, or simply stations. Each point on the grid represents a station. The line along which the ship moves from station to station is known as a transect. Hydrographic stations mark the spots where physical, chemical, geological, and biological measurements and samples may be taken. Of course, ships may carry out various measurements and sample the water column along the transect while underway, too. The number of stations and length of the transect depend on the number of days allotted to the expedition and the type and amount of work that the expedition team desires to carry out.

The distance between samples of different regions of the ocean—horizontally or vertically—defines the spatial resolution of the measurements. As someone living in the twenty-first century, you have undoubtedly witnessed increases in the spatial resolution of televisions and smartphone cameras (from HD to 4K, for example). Spatial resolution defines the smallest object or feature that may be resolved or distinguished by the display or sensor in your television or smartphone camera—such as 4K resolution (and soon 8K and 16K). Similarly, for oceanographers, spatial resolution refers to the smallest features that may be distinguished in a particular set of data. At higher spatial resolution, oceanographers can identify an individual underwater mountain versus a blob of mountains. They can discriminate the fine details of different water temperatures (as colors) instead of one blotch of the same temperature. Low spatial resolution occurs when oceanographers have to take samples far apart in distance or when a sensor can only “see” broad swaths of the ocean. To obtain higher spatial resolution, oceanographers must take more samples in a given area or build sensors that detect smaller features. But there are limits.

Time, technology, and funding don’t always permit the highest spatial resolution. A compromise has to be made between where oceanographers sample and how much they sample: more locations with fewer samples at each location or fewer locations and more samples? Taking and processing more samples can take more time. Observing smaller details of the ocean demands better technology. But time and technology require money that is not always available to the oceanographic community. So compromises have to be made to achieve the highest spatial resolution within the constraints of the time and technology available.

An excellent example of the challenges of grid sampling can be found in the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigation, or CALCOFI, which has been conducting oceanographic surveys aimed at understanding fisheries off the coast of California since 1949. The original grid in 1950 included hundreds of stations along the entire California coastline and even parts of Baja. But since 2004 the survey area has been limited to between 75 and 109 stations over a smaller area. In total, CALCOFI samples an area of 55,263 square nautical miles, a considerable expanse, but less than 0.05 percent of the world ocean. Nevertheless, CALCOFI ranks as “the longest-running oceanographic monitoring program on the planet” (e.g., Koch 2019).

Combinations of technology and ships now provide an ability to sample the ocean at spatial scales spanning twelve orders of magnitude—from nanometers to kilometers (e.g., Dickey 1990; Branson et al. 2016). The challenge for twenty-first-century oceanographers will be to connect the dots—to find the connections—between processes at each of those scales (e.g., Dickey 1991).

3.3 Sampling over Time: The Time Series

Many ocean properties also vary with time. Similar to spatial resolution, we refer to temporal resolution (i.e., time resolution) as the interval of time between samples. A once-a-month sampling program has a temporal resolution of one month. A daily sampling regime has a temporal resolution of a day, and so on. But why is this important?

Imagine that you were tasked with summarizing the details of every movie playing in a twenty-one-screen multiplex, all with different start times. To complete the task, you would have to move from theater to theater and watch only a few minutes of one movie before moving on to the next. You would never be able to see one movie in its entirety. And if you spent more time on one movie, you would sacrifice your knowledge of other movies. Your knowledge of each individual movie would be incomplete.

The ocean is like a multiplex in which thousands—if not millions—of movies are playing simultaneously. What’s more, the plot of each movie keeps changing as different characters and events arise. When you return to the first theater, there’s no guarantee that the original film will still be playing. It’s maddening, but somehow, through persistence, repetition, well-honed methods, and careful sampling strategies, oceanographers have begun to make sense of it all.

In the CALCOFI program, oceanographers obtain one set of samples per station approximately every three months. Such sampling permits oceanographers to track changes on seasonal scales, but what about day-to-day or week-to-week changes? Oceanographers simply don’t have the tools or manpower to sample the ocean over all relevant scales of space or time. But, as we shall see in the chapters ahead, new technologies are helping to improve ocean sampling at ever-finer spatial and temporal scales.

3.4 The Challenge of Pressure

Nearly every technology developed for ocean exploration beneath its surface confronts one inevitable question: How deep can it go without being crushed? Many a machine has been lost (some with lives aboard) because of the intense pressure exerted by the ocean. Pressure is the reason why it’s easier to explore outer space. A dozen humans went to the Moon half a century ago, traveling a distance of 238,855 miles (384,400 km), but until 2020, far fewer had been to the Challenger Deep, the deepest location in the world ocean, a mere 6.8 miles (10,925 m) down. Why? Water pressure.

Physicists define pressure as the force exerted by a fluid (a gas or a liquid) on an object immersed within it. In the ocean, every 10 meters of water depth, about 33 feet, increases pressure by about 14.7 pounds per square inch, or 1 atmosphere (atm) at sea level. Earth’s atmosphere, on average, extends about 7.5 miles (9.17 km) above us. So the pressure exerted by about 33 feet of water equals the pressure exerted by about 7.5 miles of gases in our (one) atmosphere. For simplicity, oceanographers often express water pressure in units of atmospheres. The calculation is quite simple:

P(atm) = z(m) / 10(m/atm) + 1(atm)

(Eq. 3.1)

where P is water pressure, z is depth, and 1 atm represents the pressure at sea level (from the atmosphere pressing down on the ocean).

The simple math makes the enormity of pressure apparent: you don’t have to go very deep to experience great pressure. Because water is 800 times denser than air, water exerts a much greater pressure on objects immersed within it. At a depth of a hundred feet (roughly 30 m), a scuba diver experiences four times the pressure they would experience at sea level. Free divers—persons who dive with no scuba gear and rely only on holding their breath—experience even greater pressure. The current no limits freediving record depth of 702 feet (214 m), held since 2007 by Austrian Herbert Nitsch (b. 1970), converts to a water pressure 22 times the pressure at sea level (e.g., The Salt Sirens 2021). Imagine a newborn baby elephant (about 300 lbs) balanced on a USB wall charger (about 1 square inch on each side). That’s what a free diver experiences at those depths. (See Appendix 1 for more on ocean pressure.)

3.5 The Undersampling Problem

The challenges of sampling a difficult environment across multiple scales of space and time have led to what is known as the undersampling problem in oceanography. Oceanographers do not yet possess a sufficient number of measurements to develop a complete understanding of ocean processes. Advances in technology—especially satellites and robots—have improved the spatial and temporal resolution of observations, leading some to think the ocean is now adequately sampled (e.g., Munk 2000). Nevertheless, many parts of the ocean, such as the deep ocean, and many processes, especially biological ones, remain undersampled (e.g., van Haren 2018; Claustre et al. 2020). Extreme water pressure continues to present a barrier to all but the most specialized technologies. And many chemical and biological processes still require shipboard sampling. Nevertheless, new technologies are helping oceanographers to fill in the gaps.

3.6 Modern Oceanographic Vessels

Oceanographic research vessels form the backbone of ocean research in the twenty-first century. While their ability to provide much-desired spatial and temporal resolution remains limited, ships offer a platform for nearly every other type of technology used to study the ocean. Despite the advantages offered by robotic platforms and satellites, there remains a need for technology capable of doing the heavy lifting, so to speak. Humans working aboard ships can perform feats no modern robots can come close to.

Modern oceanographic research vessels—designated by R/V in front of the ship’s name—serve several functions. Under the supervision of a trained captain and crew, they provide a safe, comfortable, mobile habitat for dozens of scientists and technicians. Importantly, they enable teams of oceanographers to carry out different types of collaborative research. Among their many attributes,

  1. They provide a stable platform for launching and deploying a variety of oceanographic instruments above, below, and on the surface of the ocean.
  2. They permit scientists to access remote ocean locations, including the central gyres of the major oceans, ice-covered oceans, and remote islands.
  3. They offer state-of-the-art navigation capabilities, providing precise locations for sampling while underway or when stationary and the ability to return to those exact locations in the future.
  4. They offer state-of-the-art communications and telepresence capabilities, allowing oceanographers and crew to download satellite imagery and stream images to shoreside personnel and the public.
  5. They provide specialized cranes and winches for deploying various types of oceanographic instruments, including submersibles and robotic craft.
  6. They offer ample deck space, such as a fantail, a broad platform on the rear of a vessel, where oceanographers can work outside close to the waterline, and where portable vans (or clean rooms) can be installed for carrying out specialized analyses and experiments.
  7. They provide laboratories with benchtop instruments for at-sea analysis of collected samples, where live organisms may be observed, and where samples may be prepared and stored for shoreside analysis.
  8. They offer computing capability for storing and analyzing electronic data in real time or on demand.
  9. They provide mess halls and places to sleep, bathe, and relax (e.g., a lounge with a big-screen TV, a library, a gym, and, on some vessels, a sauna). Some of these spaces can also be used for meetings and conversations with colleagues.

Most oceanographic research vessels operate under the supervision of the University–National Oceanographic Laboratory System, better known as UNOLS. The UNOLS fleet includes five global-class ships, six intermediate-range oceangoing vessels, and seven regional/coastal-class ships. UNOLS also coordinates the use of nearly one hundred small research vessels (35–100 feet in length). UNOLS-approved vessels meet strict standards, including rules aimed at individual conduct, prohibitions on alcohol, and guidelines on privacy, discrimination, and harassment while onboard (UNOLS 2015). Researchers who request use of a UNOLS vessel must adhere to these standards.

Oceanographers also make use of ships of opportunity, commercial vessels that regularly cross the ocean, such as freighters, tankers, cruise ships, and ferries. The Ships of Opportunity Program (SOOP) provides reports on weather conditions and deploys expendable profilers that measure water column properties. SOOP, managed by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization and the International Oceanographic Commission, currently collects weather and ocean data from more than 1,200 vessels.

It goes without saying that life aboard an oceanographic research vessel brings adventure, excitement, and a sense of camaraderie with fellow scientists. Crew and scientists typically work around the clock in shifts of four hours on and eight hours off or some variation thereof. With multiple teams of scientists carrying out different kinds of investigations, a research cruise may seem a little like a three-ring circus. But in the end, weather and equipment permitting, everyone accomplishes as much as they possibly can in the time allotted. It’s a lot of work, and the work can be exhausting. But you won’t get any sympathy from the crew. When I once complained on the R/V Oceanus about being tired, a crewmember responded, “You can sleep when you’re dead.”

3.7 Beneath the Surface

Technology that permits humans to travel beneath the surface of the ocean dates back at least to the fourth century BCE. The Greeks apparently figured out they could hoist a large metal pot over their head, walk out into the water, and breathe the air trapped inside. Thus was born the diving bell, a dome-shaped, air-filled chamber that permits divers to work at depth, even in modern times. Aristotle mentions diving bells used by sponge divers in the Aegean Sea (Ross 1927). His student, Alexander the Great, purportedly used a diving bell to observe a “gigantic creature that took three days to pass by” (Bevan 1995). Of course, had he stayed submerged for such a time, he would have been dead from lack of oxygen. Obviously, you can’t believe everything you read in books.

Human desire to reach the deepest depths of the ocean finds a place in the twentieth century as well. In the 1930s, American naturalist William Beebe (1877–1962) and engineer Otis Barton (1899–1992) built the world’s first bathysphere, a hollow steel sphere with transparent baseball-sized portholes for making observations. Lowered on a cable from a ship, the bathysphere—with the men bolted inside—made a series of successful descents, including one to 3,028 feet (923 m) on August 11, 1934. Beebe’s sketches and account of his dives resulted in a best-selling book, Half-Mile Down (1934), the first work to document the strange and wonderful animals that inhabit the dimly lit waters known as the twilight zone (see Chapter 22).

A few decades later, a similar vehicle, the bathyscaphe Trieste, enabled two men to reach the Challenger Deep, the first humans ever to do so. A bathyscaphe consists of a hollow steel sphere attached to a giant gasoline-filled “bladder,” which provides the necessary buoyancy for returning divers to the surface without a cable. On January 23, 1960, Swiss oceanographer and engineer Jacques Picard (1922–2008) and US Navy lieutenant-oceanographer Don Walsh (b. 1931) descended to 35,814 feet (10,916 m), setting a world record for the deepest dive, a record that would stand for 52 years. The deepest depths of the ocean remain a formidable challenge for our inventions, manned and unmanned.

3.7.1 Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA)

No summary of underwater technology would be complete without mention of the invention that permitted humans to see the undersea world firsthand: the self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, better known as scuba. Invented in 1943 by French engineer Émile Gagnan (1900–1979) and ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau (1910–1997), scuba permits humans to inhabit shallow waters for limited periods of time. Cousteau’s television series, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau (1968–1975), instilled in the public a love for the ocean and inspired the careers of many a marine biologist and oceanographer, including yours truly.

While limited to shallow waters (less than 130 ft) without advanced training, scientific diving—underwater observations, measurements, and experiments using scuba—remains the only means for scientists to carry out direct observations of the ocean and experimental studies for extended periods of time in multiple locations. In recent years, marine scientists have begun to use advanced scuba tools (i.e., advanced technical diving) to explore mesophotic coral ecosystems, deep, light-dependent coral reefs found at depths between 100 and 500 feet (30–250 m).

Scientific divers may also employ a shark cage—a metal cage that permits safe viewing of sharks and other pelagic ocean species—which works in a similar manner. Divers enter and exit the cage through an opening in the top, usually while the cage is at the surface. Once divers are inside, the cage descends to an optimal depth for viewing the animals. Though shark-cage diving is popular as a tourist adventure, the cages prove useful for scientific studies where direct observation is required, including estimates of animal length (e.g., May et al. 2019) and studies of feeding behavior (e.g., Becerril-Garcia et al. 2019). I’m told there’s nothing like meeting a great white shark face-to-face. I’ll take their word for it.

3.7.2 Atmospheric Diving Suits

The atmospheric diving suit, or ADS—also known as an armored diving suit or articulated diving suit—allows divers to explore deeper waters. The ADS resembles a space suit, but it operates more like a submersible (see below). In fact, some authors classify the ADS as a one-person submersible. The ADS maintains sea-level pressure inside the suit—hence its name—eliminating the need for decompression when the diver comes to the surface.

An early type of ADS, the JIM suit, enabled American marine biologist Sylvia Earle (b. 1935) to reach 1,281 feet (381 m) off the coast of Oahu in 1979. The dive lasted two and a half hours and set a record for the deepest dive at the time. During her dive, Earle observed bioluminescence in bamboo corals, a phenomenon not filmed until 2016 (Taylor 2016). The JIM suit—named after a diver named Jim—was also featured in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only (Glen 1981) and a lesser-known sci-fi film, DeepStar Six (Cunningham 1989).

New-generation ADSs can reach depths of 2,000 feet (610 m). They incorporate various types of propulsion units and include LED lights, sonar, HD cameras, real-time atmospheric monitoring, and two-way wired and acoustic communication systems. In 2019, the navy teamed up with NASA to develop a diver-augmented vision device (DAVD), a heads-up display system for dive helmets. Using the display, the diver can monitor a host of data and receive text messages from topside (such as RUSL, roll on seafloor laughing). The system can even provide augmented-reality displays, useful in conditions where visibility is poor (Melnick 2019).

3.7.3 Submarines

Though predominantly used for military purposes, submarines, defined as a vessel capable of propelling itself underwater, also play a role in modern oceanographic research. Since 1993 oceanographers and the US Navy have collaborated on the use of nuclear submarines for oceanographic research, especially in the Arctic. The first mission, named SCientific ICe EXercise 1993, or SCICEX-93, carried five scientists aboard the USS Pargo, a Sturgeon-class fast attack submarine named after a fish. The success of SCICEX-93 spurred five more missions from 1995 to 1999. For security reasons the navy instituted scientific accommodation missions, or SCICEX SAMs, in 2000, in which trained navy personnel carried out oceanographic measurements without scientists on board. Scientists may access the data—once it’s declassified—through the National Snow and Ice Data Center (SCICEX Science Advisory Committee 2010). As a joint civilian-military program, SCICEX SAMs enable collection of data that would not otherwise be possible to obtain. Observations beneath the ice help verify above-ice satellite observations and further scientific understanding of the role of the Arctic in climate change (Morelo 2010).

3.7.4 Submersibles

Small submarines, better known as submersibles, deep submergence vehicles (DSVs), or human-occupied vehicles (HOVs), play a larger role in oceanographic research than submarines, sacrificing speed for depth capability. Unlike submarines, submersibles require a transport ship to carry them to their dive location. And while typical naval submarines carry more than a hundred personnel, most submersibles carry only three. Typical modern submarines operate at depths less than 1,500 feet, but many submersibles can attain depths of 14,763 feet (4,500 m) or more. New generations of submersibles can now reach the deepest locations in the world ocean.

No submersible in the world can match the record of WHOI’s HOV Alvin—in operation since 1964—the only scientific research submersible in the United States. Alvin has enabled the discovery of hydrothermal vents (see Chapter 8), helped find the RMS Titanic, and served countless scientists in pursuit of knowledge about the ocean (e.g., Humphris et al. 2014). As of 2020, the near-60-year-old vessel had logged 5,065 dives, carried 15,186 people, and spent 35,474 hours submerged. But Alvin’s most exciting days may lie ahead. In 2021, upgrades to the submersible will permit it to reach 21,325 feet (6,500 m), the depth of some 98 percent of the seafloor. Despite the opinion of some that robots could better serve science at these depths, there’s simply no substitute for being there. As one ocean engineer put it, underwater cameras are “still a long way short of what the human eye can do” (Oberhaus 2020).

Still, the very deepest spots remain mostly unreachable. Only one currently working submersible, the DSV Limiting Factor, can reach the Challenger Deep today. Descending in the Limiting Factor in April 2019, American undersea explorer Victor Vescovo became the fourth explorer to reach the Challenger Deep and set a new world record for the deepest dive ever, reaching 35,853 feet (10,928 m). On June 7, 2020, the first woman to walk in space, geologist and astronaut Kathryn Sullivan, became the first woman to reach the deepest spot on Earth with a 35,810-foot dive (10,915 m) aboard the Limiting Factor. At least a dozen men and women have now reached these depths, including the son of Don Walsh, who repeated his father’s dive on June 20, 2020 (Amos 2020).

3.7.5 Manned Undersea Research Stations

Manned undersea research stations—semipermanent undersea structures designed for human habitation and scientific research on the seafloor—entered the human imagination long before they became a reality. Historians credit “freethinking” English bishop John Wilkins (1614–1672) as the first person to imagine permanent undersea colonies (Matsen 2009). French writer Jules Verne (1828–1905) imagined a kind of mobile underwater habitat in his epic novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870). Captain Nemo’s exploits aboard Nautilus inspired many an ocean explorer, including Cousteau (Matsen 2009).

In the 1960s Cousteau and his team of divers built three stationary underwater living spaces on the seafloor of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. The first, the cylindrical Continental Shelf Station Number One, or simply Conshelf I, was established at a depth of 33 feet (10 m) near Marseille, France. At 17 feet long and 8 feet high (about 5.2 x 2.4 m), it served as a kind of underwater tiny house complete with television, radio, and a record player. From September 14 through 21, 1962, French aquanauts Albert Falco (1927–2012) and Claude Wesley (1930–2016) spent a week on Conshelf I, the first humans ever to live underwater for multiple days. According to protocol, the men were required to spend five hours a day outside of the station carrying out observations of marine life and tending an underwater farm. Upon his return to the surface a week later, when asked what he would like, Falco simply replied, “To walk” (Cousteau and Dugan 1963).

A year later, the Conshelf II “village” was established in the Red Sea. The starfish-shaped main station, at 33 feet long (10 m), accommodated five men and included a parrot to warn of pressure changes. The undersea village also had a garage for a submersible, an equipment hangar, and a second station 82 feet deeper (25 m). This time, the aquanauts stayed a month. During the last four days of their residency, they were joined by Cousteau’s research partner and wife, Simone Cousteau (1919–1990), who became the first woman to live underwater.

The exploration and research in these underwater habitats were captured in the documentary World without Sun, which won an Academy Award in 1965 (Cousteau’s second in the category). That year, the Cousteau team also established a much deeper habitat near Nice, France. Conshelf III, at 336 feet (102 m), housed six aquanauts who remained underwater for three weeks. The idea of people living and working beneath the sea was no longer a fantasy. Cousteau had made it a reality.

Cousteau’s success led to construction of similar habitats around the world. Since 1962 at least 70 underwater habitats have been built (Chamberland 2007). But don’t let that number fool you—most never made it beyond their first mission. Most no longer exist or have become manmade reefs. Only three ever accommodated aquanauts for longer than 30 days.

Florida International University’s Aquarius Reef Base (1986–present), a 400-square-foot, six-person habitat in the Florida Keys, is the only remaining undersea habitat dedicated to scientific research. One other operational undersea habitat, the Jules Undersea Lodge (formerly La Chalupa research laboratory), serves as an underwater hotel and occasional classroom in a lagoon in Key Largo Undersea Park in Florida. In 2014, two professors from Roane State Community College in East Tennessee taught an online biology course from the lodge. In doing so, they set a world record for living underwater: 73 days, 2 hours, and 34 minutes (Guinness World Records 2021).

The high cost of maintenance and operation makes funding of manned underwater research stations less attractive. Nevertheless, scientists and entrepreneurs continue to envision a future for manned undersea habitats and even underwater cities. The SeaOrbiter, conceived by French architect Jacques Rougerie, may one day serve as a mobile above- and below-water habitat—an international ocean station—to provide capability for 24-hour scientific research and a platform for ocean education and conservation (e.g., Brehmer et al. 2018).

In 2020, Cousteau’s grandson, French ocean explorer Fabien Cousteau (b. 1967), and Swiss designer Yves Béhar (b. 1967) announced plans to build an underwater manned research station in 60 feet of water (about 18 m) off the coast of Curaço in the Caribbean. Named Proteus, the planned habitat will accommodate a dozen aquanauts and have a capability to live-stream video in 16K resolution. About the project Cousteau says, “I’m just a crazy person with a dream that sees this as being not only possible—but absolutely necessary—for our future well-being” (Knapp 2020).