When thinking of Jacques Cousteau, Mission 31 is a good example of how the famous French oceanographer influenced his peers and his grandson, Fabien. After developing his award-winning film in 1964, World Without Sun, Jacques Cousteau inspired his grandson, Fabien, to organize Mission 31. Mission 31 was an undersea expedition conducted in 2014 that aimed for Fabien Cousteau and 6 other crew members to spend 31 days in an underwater facility (the Aquarius lab located in the Florida Keys). The expedition was a success, and the team performed many lengthy dives, also conducting scientific studies and observations, and retrieving vital IMAX footage.
Without Jacques Cousteau, Mission 31 could not have existed. The explorer’s grandson, Fabien Cousteau, spent most of his early years aboard his grandfather’s ships, Calypso and Alcyone. He learned how to scuba dive at the age of 4, and, as he grew up, he became a skilled diver and explorer, working on several projects for National Geographic and CBS. Four years after his multi-hour series, Ocean Adventures, ended, Fabien became a legend worthy of his grandfather. On June the 1st 2014 he and his team organized Mission 31, and managed to gather two years’ worth of vital scientific data in just over a month.
Mission 31 became Fabien Cousteau’s way of retracing his grandfather’s steps 50 years later. The Aquarius underwater facility was built 63 feet below the surface of the sea, and was pressurized, air-conditioned, while even offering wireless internet access. The equipment aboard the facility was extensive, and allowed the crew members to conduct regular dives. Their objectives were to monitor the animal life at the bottom of the sea, including plankton, octopus, sponges, starfish, rays and reef sharks.
With advanced cameras, minuscule probes installed on the reef itself and sonar cameras that were designed not to disturb the local wildlife, the results obtained were impressive. Although none of them had performed saturation diving in the past, Fabien Cousteau and his team led the mission to success, diving in some cases nine hours at a time to collect more data in the allotted time frame, and even observe the underwater creatures during the night. A true testament to the efforts of Jacques Cousteau, Mission 31 gathered enough data for 10 scientific papers, while actively raising awareness about the importance of marine life preservation.