Ten Days under the Sea; October 1996; Scientific American Magazine; by Edmunds; 8 Page(s)
It was an overcast July morning as we hopped on board the motorboat that would take us away from open spaces, dry land and summer breezes for a week and a half. We were about to begin an underwater mission in the Aquarius habitat, a six-person research station situated 6.5 kilometers off Key Largo, Fla., and 15 meters beneath the waves.
Behind us were four days of training, a year of preparation and, in my case, a lifetime of ambition to work underwater as a marine biologist. In the late 1980s I had been struck by the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Hugo on Caribbean reefs, particularly those off St. John, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It had taken nearly six years for those reefs to recover. My surveys suggested that many of the juvenile corals ("recruits") that managed to survive by attaching themselves to solid surfaces did so in cracks and on the undersides of ledges and pieces of rubble. I began to wonder whether this kind of settlement, in so-called cryptic locations, provided a springboard for growth onto the open reef. During our stay in Aquarius, my colleagues and I would begin trying to find out.