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IMAGE: NEEMO 7 Mission Specialist Mike Barratt
Mission Specialist Mike Barratt.
*NEEMO 7 Journals
*Aquanaut Profile: Mike Barratt

NEEMO 7 Journals

NEEMO 7, Mike Barratt
Day 6, Saturday, October 16, 2004

This morning we started the day a bit differently. Instead of watching the daylight appear from our galley table, we were out in scuba gear lying on the sea floor in about 70 feet of water. There was a faint lunar glow breaking the surface as we made our way outbound along the excursion line and watched the habitat lights fade into the blackness behind us. We tied off a couple of cave reels on the excursion line and dropped to the bottom, keeping the lights and the comm off. It's amazing what there is to see in spite of the darkness. What little moonlight was penetrating to that depth was producing shadow outlines of coral heads, and the slightest scratch of the bottom threw out a shower of bioluminescent sparks. Occasionally you could look up and see shadows of what were most likely large barracuda cruising overhead, and you would realize two things: there are creatures out there with senses you don't have, and you may not be at the top of the food chain this morning.

With the occasional strategic light beam, we were able to see the night shift getting ready to pack it in. These were reef crawlers mostly, shrimp, crabs, brilliantly colored bristle worms, and large feather dusters. As the light came up, the morning commute began. Fish began to awaken and move, and those speedy and voracious yellow tailed and horse-eyed jacks began to come in on the habitat where the smaller fish (read breakfast) congregate. We also found ourselves among many juvenile barracuda who seemed very curious about us, following us as we came in close and burned our remaining air and dive time around Aquarius.

Living down here, you have an opportunity to see things you would only happen upon by chance in years of surface diving. You have the unique ability to get to know individuals and watch behavior patterns of small groups. The species diversity right around the habitat is striking in its own right. And since I am sitting here by the window and BOB (big old barracuda) is hovering right next to me, these guys deserve special mention. There are a handful of very large barracuda and perhaps a couple score of juveniles that just seem to hang out here, like a pride of lazy lions amidst the hundreds of mostly smaller inhabitants. Mostly they seem to mingle peacefully, like a tranquil aquarium scene. But when you look at their size and health, not to mention those foreboding teeth, you realize what successful predators they are. On rare occasion you glimpse a flash of silver as one of these hits a fish and severes it into two neat halves that are quickly devoured. The shoal from which the meal was culled scatters instantly, regroups within a minute and life goes on like nothing happened. This is the African Savannah, in three dimensions.

After our dawn dive and a fast breakfast, we stepped again onto the treadmill of experiments, imagery, timeline management, and public and educational outreach activities. It's a fairly frenetic pace, and we were happy to head out the door again to do our final Waterlab construction sortie. Getting out on scuba definitely makes up the peaceful parts of our day. We finished bolting the main elements together and made advantage of a habitat guest diver - our training mentor Ross Hein - to run the video camera as we floated the truss structure to the top of the towers. It is truly moving how much pride a group of whacko type A perfectionists can take in a rickety lattice of PVC pipe! She looks good out there on the sea floor, as good as any platform NASA has ever built. Pirate flag notwithstanding.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 10/22/2004
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