Two Aquarius dive masters named Otter and Otto ran our training today. We again started in the classroom and finished in the water. We took a virtual tour of Aquarius and then had safety briefings on emergency drills for the habitat. Emergency situations for the habitat include getting lost, running out of air, receiving contaminated air, flooding, and fire. A fire underwater might seem like a firefighter's dream, but it's not; a fire could devastate Aquarius wiring and/or the habitat from inside where there is 2.5 times more oxygen than on the surface. We'll run through habitat safety drills again throughout this week.
This afternoon we dove with double tanks again near Aquarius. Double air means more time to work in the water, so we'll use double tanks whenever we're not using the dive helmets. Otter and Otto ran us through the drills we discussed earlier in the classroom, including extending and recalling excursion lines (i.e., ropes we can follow back to the habitat), searching for a lost buddy diver, buddy breathing while swimming, and turning on/off all the valves on our tanks with our masks off. We all did ok. It's a bit hard to get used to swimming with two heavy tanks on your back plus all the extra gear, including two reels, knife, extra regulator, slate, radio, strobe light, and a safety sausage (an inflatable, bright-colored column).
In the evening we headed back to mission headquarters for home-made pizza! Tomorrow we'll train longer underwater with more mask-off drills, so I expect my eyes to hurt.
Grace Young is an MIT ocean engineer, aquanaut, and scientist/engineer with Cousteau's Mission 31. She's currently a PhD student at University of Oxford, chief scientist for the Pisces VI deepsea submarine, and a National Geographic Emerging Explorer.