Ocean Opportunity, a Rhode Island based not for profit organization, is pleased to announce the continuing success of its ‘Bahama Deep’ initiative, thanks to a recent grant award to Expedition Leader and Rhode Island native, Michael Lombardi. The award from the National Geographic Society/Waitt Grants Program is the second awarded to Lombardi since 2010.
Lombardi, along with colleague Jeff Godfrey (University of Connecticut), recently returned from a successful expedition to the Exumas Bahamas where they successfully deployed an experimental undersea habitat to aid them in exploration of the deep coral reef. This marked the first use of a self-sustained, free of surface support, purpose built habitat for assisting wet divers during decompression following deep scientific dives. Dives were conducted to over 400 feet of depth this past week.
The habitat represented a yearlong development effort between Lombardi’s team and Subsalve Inc., a Rhode Island manufacturer. Lombardi states that “removing divers from the wet and harsh ocean environment during lengthy decompression proved very useful. We found that resting in a semi-dry habitat added comfort alone [in addition to other benefits] which lead us to believe that several hours of decompression can be carried out in this portable structure. This will significantly extend our range in exploratory marine science.”
Numerous images, samples, and specimens have been gathered since 2010, which are being evaluated by project collaborators. A fish collected was recently described as a new species by researchers at the American Museum of Natural History and the City University of New York.
The underwater habitat will continue being developed with modifications throughout this fall and winter in prep for even deeper, and long duration excursions on the deep reef – proposed to exceed 500 feet. This work will take place during 2012 and 2013 while continuing the project funded by National Geographic. This project is supported by the National Geographic Society/Waitt Grants Program, Ocean Opportunity Inc., the University of Connecticut, the Bahamas Marine EcoCentre and numerous corporate and individual supporters.
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