Aquarius Underwater Laboratory is the Planets only underwater Science lab and habitat

Aquarius Underwater Laboratory is marked with a yellow life support buoy that is 30' in diameter. The depth of the water where it sits is 63'. The reef wall outside the lab drops off to 160'-180'. There are yellow Sanctuary Preservation Area research only buoys that mark the site. It’s located 5 miles southeast of Tavernier at Conch Reef. The GPS coordinates are 24'57.010N and 080'27.130W.

Divers outside Aquarius

This underwater science lab and habitat began its tour of duty in the US Virgin Islands in 1988. It was refurbished in 1990 and redeployed in the Florida Keys. In 1996 after 22 missions it was once again refurbished with more state of the art equipment and placed back into service in 1997 at the same location and that’s where it is today. The 51' x 102' life support barge was also replaced with a semi-autonomous life support buoy.

The lab module itself is an 82-ton double-lock pressure vessel. It’s nine feet wide and forty-five feet long. Each of the four legs is filled with twenty-five tons of lead and can extend to a length of seven feet. They connect to a 116-ton baseplate. This keeps it stable and level. It’s weathered many hurricanes during its time of the ocean floor. Here’s a great video of the lab.

Where do people go to live and work on the ocean floor? Aquarius Underwater Laboratory. It has six bunks, a hot water heater, hot showers, an instant hot water dispenser, air conditioning, bathroom, microwave over, refrigerator, sink, trash compactor, computer work station, power equipment, life support controls, link to surface, an open moon pool, dive equipment storage area, a hookah, two large view ports and two smaller view ports. Several talk bubbles have been placed at specific research sites on the ocean floor. They’re a metal frame that houses a Plexiglas dome. The dome is filled with air allowing the divers to communicate on site.

Aquarius Life Support Buoy The life support buoy is tethered to the lab below. It’s 30' in diameter and houses computers, generators, air compressors and advanced telemetry and control systems that keep the occupants in real time video and audio communication with the land base located on Key Largo.

The lab is owned by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and funded by the National Underwater Research Program. A variety of missions utilize the unique location of the lab. Studies by scientists of corals and marine plant and animal life and how currents, pollution and ultra violet light effect them. Astronauts become Aquanauts to help them learn how to work as a team in Innerspace, which is a lot like outerspace. It helps them to better prepare for the physical and mental demands of working and living in space. It’s also used to study saturation diving and the effects on the human body caused by the two weeks spent at this depth. Through the saturation dives preformed here they’ve learned how to skip what would have been a 16-hour decompression time in order to return to the surface. If you want to read more about the going on’s down under, here’s the link.

On a trip to Conch Reef in the Florida Keys you’re able to dive pretty close to this thing. Just don’t get any wild idea about swimming over and entering into it. That’s highly illegal. Back at the surface your friendly cop on the water will be waiting and willing to give you a ticket for $1000. Anyone entering Aquarius Underwater Laboratory has to have a special research permit.



Return from Aquarius Underwater Laboratory to Dive Site List

Return from Aquarius Underwater Laboratory to N The Florida Keys