Miracles of technology provided an opportunity to have kids talk to Fabian Costeau underwater in his undersea laboratory from the comfort of their classroom. It was easily forgettable that he was underwater until a giant silvery fish swam by his head.
Cousteau gestured to the blue water in the porthole beneath him. “Look how much of a paradise this is,” he said to the fifth-grade students.
Cousteau and a rotating team of researchers are living on Aquarius, the world’s only permanent undersea laboratory. He spoke to the students as he was performing his mission of living abord the laboratory for 31 days. The mission is called Mission 31, and the purpose is to study the ocean life off the Florida Keys. Mission 31 is replicating a mission done 50 years ago by another famous Cousteau – Jacques, Fabien’s grandfather.
Fabien Cousteau and his team are also serving as underwater teachers by talking with students around the world via Skype, an online program that lets users communicate via webcam.
On Thursday, 85 Eaton Elementary fifth-graders sat captivated as Cousteau answered questions about what it was like to sleep and eat underwater and what his team was researching. He walked the students through the Aquarius lab, showing them where the researchers eat freeze-dried meals, sleep in narrow bunk beds and – wearing diving gear – launch themselves into the ocean around them.
Eaton Elementary was one of several schools selected for a Skype session with Cousteau and his team. The talk was organized by Carr Fullagar, who teaches high school marine biology and biology at Cape Fear Academy. Fullagar had been working with the Mission 31 team since November to set up a Skype call with his own students, but when the date was finally set, Cape Fear Academy students were already on summer break. So Fullagar offered the session to students at Eaton Elementary, where his mother teaches gifted students.