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NEEMO 1

IMAGE: Dave Williams

Canadian Space Agency Astronaut Dave Williams.

RELATED LINKS
*NEEMO 1 Journals
*Aquanaut Profile: Dave Williams

NEEMO Journals

NEEMO 1, Dave Williams
Day 1, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2001

This morning we boarded the boat in a light rain and headed SE to the Aquarius habitat. The waves were about 4 feet but seemed larger as we bounced our way towards our new home for the next week. There was a low lying sea fog obscuring the horizon and Fred our boat captain did an excellent job in taking us to a mooring by the life support buoy above the habitat. After donning our technical diving gear we entered the water in buddy pairs and at 9:56 am swam down to the world's only scientific underwater habitat.

In contrast to the eight and a half minute flight to space where 7 million pounds of thrust were propelling us to low earth orbit, the leisurely swim to the habitat seemed quite surreal. We arrived at the habitat and checked in with the Aquarius crew before starting our first EVA (dive). We left the habitat at 10:04 - four aquanauts embarking on their first real dive from an underwater habitat. We followed the excursion line to the SE way station in an area called the "pinnacle." After exploring the terrain adjacent to the way station Mike LA and Mike G (Aquanaut team Bravo) entered the way station to top off their tanks. When they finished Bill and I entered to fill ours while team Bravo went to explore the excursion line as it led back to the habitat.

It was quite unusual to be standing upright in the way station 50 feet below the surface and also able to communicate back to the habitat. We left the way station to swim back along the excursion line taking the same path that Mike and Mike had just departed on. We took our time, savoring every minute as we looked at the reef that we were now inhabitants of. In the past, SCUBA diving had seemed somewhat like taking a walk in the woods - a chance to visit and linger, enjoying the surroundings but not really feeling a part of them. Transitioning to an Aquanaut was like staying out in the wilderness and actually becoming a part of the nature. It was an amazing realization for both of us.

Our inner thoughts were interrupted when we saw a small spotted eel about 18 inches long swimming under the coral of the reef. There were teeth marks evident on about a quarter of the way from its tail - a testimonial to the harsh reality of living on a reef in the company of larger sea creatures. Further along the excursion line we noticed a large 6-foot moray eel coiled underneath an outgrowth of coral. Its mouth opened and closed circulating water over gills that extract oxygen from the water for it to breath. As we continued along the excursion line we noticed that in addition to the barracuda that are ever present, a small black tipped reef shark was cruising by breaking formation with us to head off in the distance. Approaching the habitat the reef fish were numerous and colorful. Their underwater dance a spectacular performance welcoming us back home. We finished the dive at 11:53, entering the wet porch to clean our equipment, refill the tanks, shower, and dry off for lunch.

Lunch was provided by our JSC and was made up of space food that was left over from the ISS increment 2. We had lime Gatorade, sweet and sour soup, buttered rice with sweet and sour pork with a quick desert of brownies. The last time I had eaten space food was 150 miles above the surface of the earth during the STS-90 mission in 1998. Now, 3 years later I was eating similar food living 50 feet beneath the surface of the ocean. From outer space to inner space over the course of 3 years.

Our second dive was along the NE excursion line leaving the habitat at 3:15 pm. We headed toward the way station as a team of 4 aquanauts and immediately noticed the difference in visibility from the dive earlier in the day. The marine life was similar to what we had seen earlier in the day with the noticeable absence of any companions swimming in formation with us. We returned to the way station to fill our tanks and subsequently returned to the habitat after 1:06 minutes exploring. Getting settled in Aquarius did not take much time as we placed our clothes by the bunks and put the sheets on the bedding. Dinner was at 7:30 pm with an appetizer of rice and beans, followed by a dinner roll, chicken fajitas and cheese, lemon lime drink and snickers for desert. After the sunset in the surface world above us we turned on the outside lights to illuminate schools of fish swimming around the portholes. Lightning from a storm far away could be seen from underwater and was somewhat reminiscent of seeing lightning flashes from space at night. During dinner we had a quick videotelecon with Monika and Mark to review the schedule for tomorrow. I am sure it will be an exciting day!


Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 06/14/2004
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