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Jacques Cousteau's grandson starts planned 31-day undersea stay

By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) - Fabien Cousteau, grandson of famed oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, descended on Sunday for a planned month-long undersea stay in laboratory off Florida, attempting to break a record for a similar sojourn set by his grandfather a half century ago.

Cousteau, along with two more so-called "aquanauts" plan to spend 31 days at a depth of about 60 feet (18-meters) in a 43-foot-long laboratory named Aquarius in the turquoise waters off the Florida Keys, monitoring marine life and filming the environment.

In 1963, Jacques-Yves Cousteau spent 30 days in a similar facility in depths of about 30 feet in the Red Sea.

"We're marking a new era in ocean exploration," said Cousteau, 46, who was born in Paris and grew up on his grandfather's ships, Calypso and Alcyone.

Teams of researchers from Florida International University in Miami, which owns Aquarius, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Northeastern University will rotate two week stays undersea.

Aquarius is air conditioned with wireless Internet access, a shower, a bathroom, six bunks and portholes that give the occupants a 24-hour view of the surrounding marine life.

Divers will use a technique called saturation diving where the undersea habitat is pressurized to mimic what is found on earth's surface and prevent decompression sickness, when human tissue can absorb gases like nitrogen in dangerously high volumes.

Researchers will host Skype interviews with classrooms around the world and will have several dives to study wildlife and coral reefs surrounding Aquarius.

"This is the first time the public will be able to take part in a Cousteau expedition live," Cousteau said.

"My grandfather would’ve loved it."

(Editing by Jon Herskovitz)

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