|Florida’s Aquarius Underwater Research Station Threatened|
|Written by Michelle Reeves, Four Green Steps|
|Tuesday, 24 July 2012 10:08|
Written by Michelle Reeves, Four Green Steps
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Aquarius is absolutely one of kind; it’s a research station deployed three miles off shore and 60 feet under water. Located in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and flanked by spectacular coral reefs, the submarine is owned by the NOAA and operated by the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Scientists live inside Aquarius for ten days at a time, researching by saturation diving and studying the coastal ocean. It has been there for 50 years and has now literally become part of the reef. Yet despite its scientific and symbolic value, the plug is being pulled on Aquarius. It provides vital climatic change and is of huge importance due to the altering state of our oceans, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has decided they cannot afford the $2.5 million it costs to keep it afloat.
The station is also used to train astronauts to react to situations in “extreme environments.” They are studying asteroids in the event that they should ever have to defend the Earth against one.
However, there is hope for Aquarius. A local non-profit, headed by scientists and marine experts calling themselves the Aquarius Foundation, hopes to raise enough money to save the research station.
The NOAA’s annual budget is an estimated $5 billion. With the centre boasting important discoveries such as the fact that UV rays damage coral reefs, or that sewage pollution affects water quality in the sanctuary, many locals are lending a hand to the Aquarius Foundation to keep the research centre open.
Ben Hellwarth, author and journalist said: “were the U.S. to pull out of the International Space Station, a tidal wave of tweets and headlines would declare the end of an era and decry the scaling back of our national ambition, but little fuss has been made over the potential closure of the world’s only remaining underwater research center.”
If you want to help save Aquarius, you can sign this petition on Care2.
Image courtesy of Creative Commons.
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