It was just another day for the Aquanauts exploring the warm, crystal waters of Conch Reef when a storm hit. The divers registered the 10-degree temperature drop on their skin a moment after the visibility went from almost 20 metres down to around three. But everything was calm topside -- this was an underwater storm.
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The astronauts are wearing white suits with American flags and mission patches on them. They're aware but unworried about the hostile environment inches away from their noses. They'd be dead in seconds if it were not for their air supply. As they bound nimbly along in a state of near-weightlessness, all each astronaut can hear is breathing.
The Aquanauts had killed the power and strapped on their emergency air masks. Someone smelled burning. In a rich-oxygen environment like Aquarius, fires can spread with ferocity; any hint of combustion is taken with utter seriousness. The air wasn't circulating as it was supposed to, and, up above, the life support buoy sounded like it was going to explode. Instead of a steady, even hum, the generator sounded like something between a between a bark and like it was gagging.
You think resetting your router or calling your ISP when your internet goes out is a pain in the arse? When the network sputtered at Aquarius undersea research base, Dominic Landucci had to dive down with a spool burial-grade cat-5 cable and punch it through the side of the lab without flooding the entire habitat.
Once, in the middle of a storm, while everyone was asleep in the undersea base, the fuel that's stored in the life support buoy sloshed around enough to stop one of the two generators. The generators power the air supply compressor that keeps everyone in the Aquarius undersea base alive. So what do the Aquanauts have to do if the air quality is at risk? Nothing. The Watch Desk is always watching.
Two days ago, in the ocean a few kilometres off Key Largo Florida, I watched a woman dive six metres down to a sandy bottom. Conch skittered across sea floor while fish pecked at a nearby reef. A Barracuda snuck up behind me and glittered as it passed by. Then, an odd thing happened. The woman on the sea floor grasped her neck with both hands and a large cloud of air -- it appeared to be an entire lung full -- escaped from her bright yellow steel dive helmet.