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Fabien Cousteau Takes Plunge To Beat Grandfather's Underwater Record 84

An anonymous reader writes Fabien Cousteau, grandson of famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, plans to spend 31 days underwater off the coast of Key Largo, Florida. He has already spent 3 weeks in an underwater laboratory called the Aquarius, and hopes to break his grandfather's record of 30 days in an undersea habitat. "There are a lot of challenges physically and psychologically," said Cousteau, 46, who grew up on his grandfather's ships, Calypso and Alcyone. Cousteau added: "We'll be able to do Twitter chats, we'll be able to do Skype sessions, we'll be able to do Facebook posts and Instagram posts and all these things that we take for granted on land, but up until now it was impossible to do from down below."
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Fabien Cousteau Takes Plunge To Beat Grandfather's Underwater Record

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  • by Blakey Rat ( 99501 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @02:56PM (#47299643)

    Ballistic missile submarines regularly spend 80+ days underwater, even during peacetime. How is 30 days a record?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They weren't doing it for attention; Fabien is. Separate categories,

    • by popo ( 107611 )

      I think it comes down to the (rather silly) semantics of "undersea habitat".

    • Because subs have tight clausterphobic environments, a need for constant quiet, severe rationing, constant work to keep sailors busy, and a chain of command to shit all over you.

      Clearly they're just too nice an environment to count.

      • This does illustrate how impressive it is to be on the crew of a submarine. Just thinking about it makes me feel claustrophobic.
        • When you think about it, it makes it quite a bit more clear why going to Mars would be quite hard mentally for the astronauts. Sure they've spend long amounts of times in the space station, but they are always in contact with the people on earth. On a trip to Mars, the astronauts would have long periods of time where they would be unable to communicate with earth. They could set up relay satellites which would help a bit, but you still have the problem with the communications round trip being anywhere fro
          • I'm fairly certain that a crew headed to mars will have much more communication with the outside world than the crew of a boomer does.
        • by cruff ( 171569 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @03:50PM (#47300029) Homepage
          My cousin served on an attack sub years ago, and he told me about the "diving parties" they had to break in the new junior grade lieutenants on their first patrol. When said lieutenant was standing watch, the diving party call would go out. The party members would all run to the rear of the boat, and the Lt would call for the necessary trim changes. Then the party would run to the front of the boat, repeat as required until the Lt figured out what was going on. Good training for the newbie.
          • by eyegor ( 148503 )

            Aside from "trim parties" (that's what we called them), we raised the art of the prank to a fine art. Ranging from asking people to get 50 feet of shore line, a bucket of relative bearing grease or obtaining the serial numbers of "water slugs", which are nothing more than columns of water pushed out the torpedo tubes during testing. The classic prank is to get some NUB (aka Non-Useful Body) to gather outgoing mail from the crew, then don every imaginable bit of foul weather gear, life harness, helo transfer

            • by QQBoss ( 2527196 )

              The thing that always got me about Navy folk is how many (not including submariners, of course) who had no clue where the head lights are on a sub.

          • I'm amazed the machinery is tight enough to notice a few thousand pounds shifting fore and aft on a several thousand ton boat. I would have expected that to be well within the mechanical slop of the controls.
      • Confined quarters, permanent command to STFU, crappy food, never ending, mind-numbing work and the upper echelons treating you like dirt...

        They should hire former tech support people, they're used to that.

        • You got it backwards. Navy experience gets people into the tech industry, not the other way around.

          • Seriously? Tech support work is more desirable?

            • If you wake up one day and decide you aren't going to do your tech job anymore you don't have to worry about being sent to jail for dereliction of duty.
              • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                by Anonymous Coward

                Plus if your boss is a prick and you quit during the work day you got an easy drive home instead of trying to swim to shore.

            • by eyegor ( 148503 )

              There's a difference between technical work and being tech support. Usually, the latter are the ones not good enough to be systems administrators. Higher tier tech support comes close, but nearly every tech support person I've met was some drone who read solution recipes out of a book.

              Submarine crews are usually very intelligent and highly skilled at their job. They can't count on outside support and have to be able to operate autonomously for weeks or months on end. When sub sailors get out of the Navy, th

      • Because of the "tight clausterphobic environments" it is a good idea to keep noise down, as too much noise will anger people who are trying to sleep or focus on their work.
        Being in an area without much room, there isn't places for too much enjoyment so they should be kept busy while they are awake as to prevent boredom, which could lead to noise and people getting on others nerves.

        Finally a strict chain of command is needed in such of an environment as to keep everything running, and prevent too much troubl

      • Because subs have tight clausterphobic environments, a need for constant quiet, severe rationing, constant work to keep sailors busy, and a chain of command to shit all over you.

        Clearly they're just too nice an environment to count.

        Speaking of which, 31 days is a lot of shit. I hope they have perfected the stench solutions by now...

      • by eyegor ( 148503 )

        I was a crew member on two 688-class attack subs. Yes, they were a bit tight but they're not especially claustrophobic. Obviously, that's subjective. While my longest stretch submerged was 61 days, I know of crews that spent over 90 days submerged. You're essentially limited by the amount of food you carry.

        "Constant quiet" is relative. They don't want you banging on stuff or making excessive noise, but you can talk, laugh and listen to movies and music without issue unless the boat is rigged for ultra-quiet

    • by Anonymous Coward

      TFA title says "record of family"
      It makes no other mention of the word record.

      Editors clean up aisle this article.

      • usually here at slashdot the editors are the ones who squat and crap in the aisles

        cmdr.taco lead the way when he stopped caring

    • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @03:02PM (#47299691) Homepage

      This is the headline:

      Fabien Cousteau Takes Plunge To Beat Grandfather's Underwater Record

      What is your source of confusion?

      It's not a world record, it's longer than Jacques Cousteau did it.

      • If he's trying to be a specific person's record then he should do it in the same environment and constraints as the record holder (within reason). A lot of the crap he's mentioning having access too Jacques would not. He should forego it.

        • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @03:15PM (#47299787) Homepage

          Why ever for? He's advocating for finding ways to do it better. You think he should hobble himself with the best of 1970s technology?

          Look, this is a PR stunt, and a press release designed to drive awareness to him. Let's not suddenly start acting like he needs to recreate the exact same conditions to be able to say he stayed down longer than his very famous grandfather.

          You have to remember what this is before you start arguing the semantics of it. Because there's not a lot of point or value in doing that once you remember that this is mostly a stunt, with some actual attempts to do some research.

          At the end of the day, he's saying "I will do this longer than my grandfather did, but with newer technology -- and if people didn't mention my grandfather, nobody would even cover this". Because he's nowhere near as famous as his grandfather was in his day.

          This is as much about awareness (and probably fund raising) as it is the specifics of the 'record'.

      • Then what's the big deal? That children try to outdo their parents is pretty much a given. For reference, see Snofru and Cheops.

        • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @03:30PM (#47299887) Homepage

          Say you have a very famous grandfather.

          Now say you've gone into the 'family business', but you're not nearly as famous as he is.

          Now say you'd like some publicity.

          Do you:

          • a) mope that nobody ever pays attention to anything you do
          • b) name drop the hell out of your grandfather so people will at least tune in

          In the 70s damned near everybody knew who Jacques Cousteau was. The kids born recently likely have no idea.

          But if you can get the press to invoke your famous grandfather to get you a little PR for your stuff ... well, such is modern life.

          He's media whoring because he has his grandfather's name.

      • Hm. Ok, good point.

        Then I guess the question is, "why the hell is this newsworthy?"

        Alternate headline: "Guy Does Something 10,000+ People Have Already Done"

      • I see how it could be read that way. It would have been better to say "will stay underwater longer than his grandfather" instead of "will beat grandfather's record", which could be read as his grandfather holding a record in the first place.

      • by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @04:16PM (#47300205)

        This is the headline:

        Fabien Cousteau Takes Plunge To Beat Grandfather's Underwater Record

        What is your source of confusion?

        It's not a world record, it's longer than Jacques Cousteau did it.

        True, but at first glance the reader might be thinking a "world record" and not a "family record". Only when delving into TFA does one discover that there is a carefully crafted (and accurate) headline enticing one to read a much less interesting story. Sure, a family record for diving in the Cousteau family is a bigger deal than say, most cigars smoked in a 4-hour period -- set by my grandfather in 1966 -- in my family. But, like so many true stories, they're both kind of lame.

        • by Zynder ( 2773551 )
          Well! How many cigars did he smoke!
          • Well! How many cigars did he smoke!

            Where did you learn to punctuate!

            • by Zynder ( 2773551 )
              Using exclamation points at the end of a sentence when one is excited is proper usage. Using !? is stupid internet speak.
              • What's wrong with a question mark? OR DID YOU WANT TO SHOUT?

                • by Zynder ( 2773551 )
                  I wanted to express my (faux) frustration at the poster leaving us hanging without a punch line. One can be excited without yelling, ya know. Of all of the stupid shit I put in my posts, I'm SHOCKED, SHOCKED I SAY, that this is the only post that got a response from anyone. I'm losing my edge. :(
      • "Mark McGwire Takes Swing to Beat Roger Maris' Home-run Record."

        So, naturally people would assume that McGwire was only trying to break Maris' personal best, and not the all-time single season record?

        Christ, the stuff that gets modded 'insightful' on this site...

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        By the way so Richard Presely 69 days [] . Now that was an unusual place to pick up some information.

        No as for why the lame arsed news story, I guess too many people are being killed in the Ukraine, Syria, Palestine, Iraq at the moment and US media looking for any kind of yarn to bury those stories. All largely the US's fault employing quick dirty solutions that fail (resulting in more quick dirty solutions that also fail) when meddling in other countries.

    • Ballistic missile submarines regularly spend 80+ days underwater, even during peacetime. How is 30 days a record?

      They _still_ don't use Twitter, Skype, etc (even though it has been technologically possible for over a decade) whereas for some reason that is of particular interest to him. Maybe he wants to set a record for deepest depths a human has traveled into the depths of his own narcissism? I am interested to see how his Facebook wall holds up.

    • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @03:30PM (#47299889)

      Ballistic missile submarines regularly spend 80+ days underwater, even during peacetime. How is 30 days a record?

      The submarine keeps you underwater. The Aquarius lab puts you in the water.

      Aquarius consists of three compartments. Access to the water is made via the 'wet porch', a chamber equipped with a moon pool, which keeps the air pressure inside the wet porch the same as the water pressure at that depth ('ambient pressure'), about 2.6 atmospheres, through hydrostatic equilibrium. The main compartment is strong enough, like a submarine, to maintain normal atmospheric pressure, and can also be pressurized to ambient pressure, and is usually held at a pressure in between. The smallest compartment, the Entry Lock, is between the other two and functions as an airlock in which personnel wait while pressure is adjusted to match either the wet porch or the main compartment.

      Because Aquarius allows saturation diving, dives from the habitat can last for up to nine hours at a time; by comparison, surface dives usually last between one to two hours. These long dive times allow for observation that would not otherwise be possible. Way stations on the reef outside Aquarius allow aquanauts to refill their scuba tanks during dives.

      This design enables personnel to return to the surface without the need for a decompression chamber when they get there. Personnel stay inside the main compartment for 17 hours before ascending as the pressure is slowly reduced, so that they do not suffer decompression sickness after the ascent.

      Aquarius (laboratory) []

      • Please mod this up. Thanks for the info. This thing has been around for over 20 years! I had no clue.

      • by Jjeff1 ( 636051 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @05:15PM (#47300589)
        Their compression setup makes absolutely no sense to me. The wikipedia article is either wrong, or someone doesn't know what they're doing. When you dive, your body absorbs gasses into your bloodstream. You have to ascend slowly to let the gasses out. Ascend too quickly, and it's like opening a soda bottle in your blood. With a deep dive (say 300 feet), that could take hours. The longer/the deeper you go, the more gasses you absorb, up to a certain point. This is what is meant by a saturation dive. Your body is fully saturated with as much extra gasses as it can hold at whatever depth you're at, working there longer doesn't make you absorb any additional gasses, so the ascent takes the same amount of time, no matter how much additional time you spend at depth.

        So, in a saturation dive, you exit the water to a chamber which is at THE SAME pressure as the surrounding water. Which means from a pressure perspective, you don't ascend. You're just getting out of the water. You sit inside the chamber, have some lunch, get some sleep, whatever. You can go back and forth between the chamber and the water without waiting for any decompression.

        But with their setup, you exit the water into the moon pool, then go into the Entry lock, where the pressure is adjusted to surface level pressure (ascending). But remember how this can take hours? You're stuck inside the Entry lock, and no one can go in or out of it until you're done.

        80 feet isn't horribly deep. You can stay down for 40 minutes and ascend directly, without having to decompress at all. But 8 hours at 80 feet puts you at almost 6 hours of decompression time. seriously [].
        • Which is why the habitat turns into a decompression chamber for a 17 hour cycle at the end of the stay at the bottom. This would basically get the "residents" back to Group A and then they can use the airlock to get into the pool then exit the habitat and surface just as if they had started that final dive from the surface.

        • The way I understand it, the main compartment is usually held at ambient (saturation) pressure. The team can go in an out of the water instantly, with the entry lock for extra safety, but no pressure difference during a normal underwater stay.

          When it's time for the team to go back up to the surface, they will slowly reduce the pressure in the main compartment over 17 hours for the team to decompress. When decompressed (like being on the surface), they enter the entry lock, pressure is increased to ambient p

    • by jovius ( 974690 )

      They are not on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Skype while being there. On the other hand, that would bring peace to the world. For moving objects Foursquare could be a nice addition, although the gamification elements might make matters go out of hands.

    • by larien ( 5608 )
      Submarine crews generally experience surface pressures, ~1 bar. 18 metres down will be ~2.8 bar with attendant risks of decompression sickness (aka the bends) on the way up unless he comes up very slowly. This kind of thing is known as "Saturation diving [] and is done all the time e.g. in the North Sea for oil, often for weeks and at greater depths than Fabien is planning.

      The 30 days "record" does seem to imply he's doing more than others have done which is rather misleading; it's certainly different from

  • I don't get it. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Major Blud ( 789630 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @03:02PM (#47299683) Homepage

    At first I read the headline and thought "oh, he's going to be underwater using scuba gear for 31 days, awesome", but after reading the article he's going to spend 31 days in an "undersea lab". That's supposed to be a record of some type? Don't sailors in both the U.S. and Russian Navy spend many months at a time submerged in nuclear subs? If it is a record, it states that his grandfather holds it at 30 days....but fails to mention that Scott Carpenter spent that same amount of time in SEALAB II. So which is it?

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      How long as someone spent in a small space underwater? In a submarine you have other people, some amenities, probably some recreation. In any case, given that the lab now has additional amenities, it is not really that same thing as Jacques spending 30 days in the lab. It is like the people climbing Everest now with professional Sherpa and gourmet meals and advanced rescue helicopters, and the people who climbed Everest without these things. However, it is still useful because this is the kind of thing
      • I get all that. I think the article may be misread as him "breaking a record" of some type, when all he's actually doing is staying in an undersea lab longer than his grandfather. I'm not downplaying the research aspects of it, but one could question how much serious research is being done if they have to promote the endeavor on social media the way that they are.

        This has been done before (, and I don't believe that it was turned in a huge PR stunt (barring Carpenter's

        • Wow after reading my comment it does sound like I'm downplaying the research. I guess I should probably wait and see what's gained from this before I run my mouth.

  • wow all the important things you can't live with out from day to day living or breaking an underwater record.

    • by Trepidity ( 597 )

      No word on whether Slashdot is available, though.

    • When you need to keep up the PR campaign, I'd say it's indispensable.

      This whole thing is at least 25% PR stunt, as much as 100% depending on your cynicism.

      And, the reality is, if you want people to pay attention to you these days, you pretty much do it via these things.

      And since people have shorter attention spans, if you didn't remind them you were still there ... they'd forget entirely by day 2.

      • Question: what does he get out of people paying attention to him?

        • All for money (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @03:40PM (#47299951) Journal

          What everyone else gets - money. He/they need funding to continue their lifestyle^wresearch. From wikipedia:

          "Due to budget cuts, NOAA ceased funding Aquarius after September 2012, with no further missions scheduled after a July 2012 mission that included pioneering female diver Sylvia Earle in its aquanaut crew. The University of North Carolina Wilmington was also unable to provide funding to continue operations. The Aquarius Foundation was set up in an attempt to keep Aquarius functioning."

          Foundations don't run on cool research, they run on dollars. Dollars requires interest, and interest comes from PR/marketing. Hence the stunt.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Am I the only one who read "grandfather's underwear record" while skimming the page? That was a bit odd. I thought the record was about wearing the same underwear for 31 days.

  • He must post many "selfies" to make it a truly noteworthy.
  • The grandfather's first name is Jacques-Yves.

  • Cousteau's name was Jacques-Yves, not Jacques.

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin