'Creeping Crud' Among Risks When Living Underwater

Fabien Cousteau and his team to stay below for 31 days
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 15, 2014 3:00 PM CDT
What It's Like to Live Underwater for a Month
This 2012 photo provided by Mission 31, Fabien Cousteau sits inside Aquarius Reef Base in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.   (AP Photo/Courtesy of Mission 31)

The health risks of deep-sea diving are one thing—but imagine living underwater for 31 days in a lab no bigger than your average bachelor apartment. That's what Jacques Cousteau's grandson, Fabien Cousteau, and five others are doing in Aquarius, the world's last undersea research lab. They went down June 1st and plan to stay a day longer than papi Cousteau did with his team 50 years ago, as they investigate ocean changes off the Florida Keys. So how does it affect the human body? Per Popular Science:

  • "Creeping crud": This term describes all kinds of skin maladies, from rashes to acne to diaper rash. The latter is caused by peeing in one's wetsuit (they all do it, apparently).
  • Inert gases: Cousteau's team will gradually soak up the gases that could damage or kill your typical scuba diver when returning to the surface. After 31 days, they'll be slowly decompressed for about 18 hours before heading home, reports MSN.
  • Hunger and taste: Many aquanauts lose some sense of taste down below—possibly because fewer airborne food odors float in the dense undersea air, one expert says. So what's on the menu? Mostly rehydrated freeze-dried camping food. "Unfortunately for me as a French person, the food ... will be simulated," says Cousteau, CBS News reports.
  • Sleep: Generally they're so exhausted, aquanauts sleep like babies. But one says silver fish known as tarpon reflected light near the porthole and made it hard to drift off.
  • Speaking: Their voices get higher-pitched when they first enter Aquarius. Either their voices return to normal or everyone gets used to the higher sound.
  • Thinking: Some aquanauts report feeling giddy or even drunk after a while. That may be the nitrogen saturating their bodies after 24 hours; it's called nitrogen narcosis.

Cousteau's team won't be the only one using Aquarius this summer: NASA plans to send astronauts there to live under conditions similar to those at the International Space Station, Space Coast Daily reports. (In a related story, read about scuba divers who survived three days lost at sea.)

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