Ocean explorer Fabien Cousteau in St. Pete for Blue Ocean Film Fest

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This week St. Petersburg is hosting the Blue Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit highlighting the importance of ocean research and protection.

One explorer and filmmaker who is in St. Pete for the festival is the grandson of Jacques Cousteau, Fabien Cousteau, who describes himself as an ocean explorer, aquanaut and voice of the oceans.

He broke his grandfather’s record by living and working underwater for 31 days in what’s known as Mission 31.

The film is part of the seven-day Blue Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit includes movies, seminars, talks with scientists and science journalists and celebrities.

Tell our listeners about Mission 31. Why did you go and what did you accomplish?

“Mission 31 was a theory in the beginning; a goal I set which was to live and work into the water for thirty one (31) days in the world’s only remaining undersea marine laboratory called Aquarius, which is ride off the Florida Keys, nine miles offshore, sixty-five feet down. And the reason why I chose to do this as a mission, as an expedition, is to really bring the focus and the attention of the world, of the general public, back towards our life-support system, our circulatory system of life, which is the oceans.”

Why do you call that, the circulatory system of life? What is it about the oceans?

“Well, imagine life without oceans. There is no such thing. It is quite literally the universal connector: it connects each and every one of us whether we know it or not, whether we live close to it or not, whether we live a thousand miles away from it. You know, if you skiing on top of a mountain, you skiing on the oceans. And because of that, water is that connector; it’s quite literally the essence that makes us possible. You know, we are facing some very real problems right now: we are facing some problems related to climate changes. We are facing some problems related to depletion of natural resources; we are facing enormous problems with pollution in our ocean. And the reason that I am mentioning these things, is not necessarily for people to either feel bad or whatever; these are facts and the facts are now becoming more and more evident as we delve in deeper.

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“We have explored less than five per cent (5%) of our ocean world to date. And we are going to places, my team and I are going to places, where no human beings ever been and we are seeing signs of human impact. And why should that be important is, again, because this is the universal connector, it’s our life support system. It gives us everything that we know that we love, that we depend on. And what happens to the ocean happens to us, whether we know it or not. By that, I mean the pollution we are putting into the oceans is quite literally ending up in our own circulatory system, in our own bodies, through the advent of drinking water, through the advent of eating sea life that has been polluted, and those things are of course trigger off a lot of things we don’t like and we don’t want to face up to, which is cancer and learning and behavioral disabilities, physical disabilities and all kind of things that ail our species and many others. Now, that’s the bummer part of it. The mission of Mission 31 is really to be empowering, to look at this fantastic alien world throughout the lens of adventure. There is no better way than to explore frontier than staying on that frontier in a log cabin so to speak, and really going out and exploring it in a way that is akin to the residents of those areas, such as coral reefs, which are underwater cities.”

How the health of the coral reefs when you were on the Mission 31 and what month was that?

“Well, Mission 31 achieved its thirty-first day on July 2nd of this year, of 2014. And we got a really good look and a chance to see the coral reefs in that area in a way that’s simply not possible from diving down for forty-five minutes and try to do some samplings and taking some scientific data. Here, we really had the luxury of time and that is an invaluable tool to get a good pulse for the health of our oceans and the health of our coral reefs right here in Florida, which are the basis for of a lot of the tourism dollars; that, I guess at least pragmatically speaking are the economic underpinnings of Florida.”

You are previewing a film about Mission 31 at the Blue Ocean Film Festival this week in St Petersburg. How to you hope to bring that message to more people through this film festival?

“Well I think, you know, we are visual creatures. I know that I much prefer experiential learning. I do enjoy stories; I very much enjoy sharing stories. And being able to bring to the public that going to attend the Blue Ocean Film Festival on November Fourth, I think our key event is at 7:30 p.m. over at the Mahaffey theater in St Pete, we’ll really be able to give a much better insight, much more in-depth look at the things that we learned during Mission 31, the funny stories that happened to us as visitors on the coral reefs, the interaction with the animals there, the kinds of crazy foods that we ate and all sorts of pragmatic things of course, as well as insight into the future and we’ll be able to show some video that has never seen before, that we haven’t posted online and that will be part of the resulting documentary next year.”

Can we get a sneak preview of one of the funny things you saw or ate or do we have to wait until tomorrow?

“Well, of course. Well actually some of those insights, you can get a kind of a glimpse on the Mission 31 website. We have been able to post 31 videos in 31 days. Now, of course those are just teasers on our website; some of the things we are going to show tomorrow evening are maybe more insight on the kinds of food; so astronaut type of food, freeze-dried food, for very pragmatic reasons, For those divers out there, you might be familiar with saturation and for those who are not, saturation is when your body acclimates to the pressure depth, so to the partial pressure of the air you are breathing at a given depth. So for us it was three atmospheres; so the air density was three times what we are breathing here in this studio. And with that comes all sorts of effects, a bit of nitrogen narcosis. But more importantly, it gives us an equilibrium with the outside world; so that we could venture off free, as opposed of diving down for sixty feet for sixty minutes, for example. We can stay at sixty feet, indefinitely. The only limitations really are our air supplies and how fatigued we are, how cold we are. So we would routinely go out for three, four, five hours or more at a time; which really gives us a much better perspective and a much better amount of time to be able to collect all that science, that data, and just observational learning.”

Thanks. I appreciate your time, today.

“It has been absolute pleasure and I hope to see you all at the event.”

The festival kicks off Monday night with a 3-D movie about a deep sea dive by James Cameron and ends with a documentary narrated by actor Jeremy Irons about garbage.

This is the first year the festival will be held in Florida. It’s scheduled to be held in St. Petersburg in even-numbered years and in Monaco on odd-numbered years.

information from the Associated Press was used in this report

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