Space Agency Astronaut Dave Williams.
1, Dave Williams
Day 1, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2001
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.
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
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!