Screenshot: Grace Young's blog
Screenshot: Grace Young’s blog

While most members of MIT’s class of 2014 enjoyed Commencement exercises on the lawn of Killian Court, Grace Young ’14 flipped her Brass Rat while watching a live stream of the festivities from a location in Florida, where she’s taking part in an ocean research mission.

Since June 1, a team of aquanauts led by Fabien Cousteau, grandson of legendary oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, has been living in an underwater capsule called the Aquarius, 63 miles beneath the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Young took her place among the Aquarius crew on June 17. She has long enjoyed scuba diving, but her passion for protecting the world’s oceans was what drew her to this underwater laboratory.

“I’m especially interested in how humans can sustainably harvest the oceans’ resources in energy, food, and minerals, while conserving their fragile ecosystems,” Young, whose degree is in mechanical and ocean engineering, explained in a recent interview. Follow her adventures on her blog, Grace Under the Sea.

The goal of Mission 31, so-called for the 31 days the team will spend underwater, is to carry out experiments researching the effects of climate change and pollution on coral reefs. They will also take part in live video chats with students around the world, engaging them in education about the ocean.

Nearly 50 years ago, Cousteau’s grandfather led one of the first attempts to live and work underwater. He spent 30 days beneath the surface of the Red Sea; his experience was captured in the film “World Without Sun.” Like his grandfather, the younger Cousteau is deeply committed to the health of the oceans and inspiring a new generation of like-minded aquanauts. “Mission 31 pays homage to my grandfather’s work and all aquanauts who have since followed his lead in the name of ocean exploration,” he said.

This isn’t the first encounter between MIT and the Cousteau family. MIT professor Harold “Doc” Edgerton custom-designed underwater photography equipment for Jacques Cousteau and also developed special sonar techniques still used in undersea exploration. Edgerton earned his nickname, “Papa Flash,” while working with Cousteau.

In fact, the Mission 31 team is using a piece of equipment inspired by Edgerton’s work in the 1950s. With the high-speed Edgertonic camera, they hope to capture the unique feeding patterns of the goliath grouper, a critically endangered ocean species.

Follow the Mission 31 team at their website, read team members’ blogs, and watch live feeds from inside Aquarius.

Learn about Grace Young’s experiences with Mission 31 via her video blog, hosted by MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering:

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One comment

  1. Kelly Szakacs

    Dear Gracie what a pleasure to follow this amazing adventure and opportunity. Incredible information and video. Thank you and the entire crew for your love of the ocean! My eyes have opened to the incredible significance of Mission 31! 

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