Every family name comes with baggage. But if your driver's license happens to say "Cousteau," chances are you're slotted for a life under the sea. Such was the case with Fabien Cousteau, the grandson of the famous oceanographer and documentary filmmaker, Jacques-Yves. And last weekend, Cousteau threw a new coat of paint on the family legacy. By the time you're reading this, 46-year-old namesake of the first family of the ocean is 63-feet below the waves near Key Largo.
Last Sunday marked the start of Mission 31, a 31-day 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 10 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 on Saturday. "Our timeline every day is filled from six in the morning to ten 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 at a 50th Anniversary nod to his grandfather's achievement. But last summer, weather delays - followed by the government shutdown - kept the crew from pulling the trigger.
While underwater for the next month, the crew will live broadcast online from the Aquarius, and Cousteau will Skype regularly with classrooms across the world. But the privately-funded expedition will also provide a cutting-edge opportunity to scope out life on the reefs. Cousteau will be shooting the ocean floor with the same high-end cameras used to shoot Hollywood spectacles like Spider Man.
The team is also outfitted with sonar that produces three-dimension imagery even in the dark, so the Florida International University and Northwestern University researchers filling out Cousteau's crew can track animal behavior in an unobtrusive way. Taken all together, not only will the Mission 31 research produce images that have never been seen before, but 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. "With that said, living underwater for 31 days and being able to dive six to 12 hours a day everyday, what that allows us to do for a full lunar cycle is monitor and bring back concrete data on a significant level.
"Topic such as climate change a pollution are very pertinent topics," he went on. "And we're going to be able to put our finger on the pulse of that through our data collection."