The Laboratory on the Ocean Floor

April 19th, 2010 by Smithsonian Journeys

We’ve mentioned before that Smithsonian scientists love studying extremes. But how about living in extreme conditions? To study the bottom of the ocean properly, you would actually have to live down there.

What do you eat? How do make your meals? Where do you get fresh water? Just as astronauts have made adjustments to their lifestyles while they are in space, scientists studying the ocean are pretty adaptable as well.

Paula Lemyre, reporting from Smithsonian Channel’s SciQ, visited the ocean floor (63 feet down) and had 30 minutes to interview and record this story. Any more time on the bottom, and Paula and her crew would face a very painful experience called “the bends” due to the reduction in pressure as they returned to sea level. Also known as decompression sickness, during the bends the body releases dissolved gas (mostly nitrogen) from the tissues and blood. As a result, bubbles are created within the circulation system and create disruptions throughout the human body. Symptoms can range from mild, dull toothache-like pain to the more serious including shock and seizures. Luckily, today we know the gradual ascension steps to avoid these kinds of situations.

Learn more about living underwater on the Smithsonian Channel’s SciQ.

Experience the Ocean Hall at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Would you want to live underwater? Share Below.

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