Sunday marked the start of Mission 31, a monthlong stretch Cousteau and his five-person crew will spend aboard the 400-square-foot Aquarius Reef Base. For all of June, Cousteau and company will log up to ten hours a day diving the nearby reefs and conducting research, all while beaming the whole thing out via social media.
"We're going to be very busy down there," Cousteau told New Times. "Our timeline every day is filled from 6 in the morning to 10 at night. Between the six to ten hours of diving a day, the science in the dry lab, the classrooms, the filming, I don't know that we'll ever have the time to be bored."
The mission will be exactly one day longer than Jacques-Yves' famous 1963 underwater stay in the Red Sea. That project yielded the Oscar winner World Without Sun. The younger Cousteau's trip to the Aquarius was originally planned as a 50th-anniversary nod to his grandfather's achievement. But last summer, bad weather and the government shutdown caused delays.
The Aquarius crew will broadcast live and Skype with students while underwater. And the privately funded expedition will shoot the life on the reefs and the ocean floor with the same high-end cameras used to film Hollywood spectacles like Spider-Man.
The team is also outfitted with sonar that produces three-dimensional imagery even in the dark, so the Florida International University and Northwestern University researchers filling out Cousteau's crew can unobtrusively track animal behavior. Finally, Mission 31 will provide a unique stack of data on climate change and pollution.
"My grandfather used to say, 'In order to film fish, you have to become a fish,' " Cousteau said. "Living underwater for 31 days and being able to dive six to 12 hours a day every day, what that allows us to do for a full lunar cycle is monitor and bring back concrete data on a significant level.
"Topics such as climate change and pollution are very pertinent topics. And we're going to be able to put our finger on the pulse of that through our data collection."