When Tennessee Aquarium visitors have a chance to quiz our SCUBA divers, many want to know what it's like to be underwater with sharks, rays, reef fish and many other creatures. They love to hear our volunteer divers talk about the toothy sharks, fierce-looking arapaima or the diving ducks and turtles in our exhibits. Many people enjoy the sport, drifting weightless like underwater astronauts in "their world," but it's only for a brief amount of time. We are able to explore, but not very deep. And certainly not for very long. So when researchers have an opportunity to stay underwater for extended periods of time as aquanauts, it's only natural that our knowledge of underwater ecosystems expands as well.
When Dr. Sylvia Earle visited the Tennessee Aquarium in June of 2010, she discussed how living underwater changed her life. "It was then that I really got to know fish," she said. Her first extended trip getting to know the "underwater neighbors" was in the Tektite underwater laboratory and later in the Aquarius underwater laboratory. (You can see her entire Aquarium presentation here. Caution: You will be inspired by this presentation.)Dr. Earle is part of Mission Aquarius. She has returned to the underwater station near Key Largo, Florida some 60 feet below the waves to bring awareness to all of the scientific accomplishments made at this research station. She is in very good company with other scientists, ocean advocates and filmmakers. And, 14-year-old Ella Van Cleave.
One World One Ocean. Ella is from Vancouver, British Columbia, but grew up in Chattanooga. The Van Cleave family were long-time Tennessee Aquarium members during their "Chattanooga years." It was during this time that Ella's interest in the natural world was sparked. "We visited the Aquarium every week for several years," said Ella's mom, Elizabeth Van Cleave."And we also went to the beach in Destin, Florida quite a bit. Pretty soon, Ella was foregoing birthdays and asking relatives to donate to animal causes." Ella is already impressing people with her passion for ocean conservation.
And, after spending an extended period of time underwater with Dr. Earle, there's no doubt Ella will be even more passionate about marine biology.
SPECIAL LIVE COVERAGE: Join the Mission Aquarius Team Tuesday, July 17 at 3pm EST/12pm PST. for a special live-streaming underwater conversation with aquanauts Sylvia Earle and Mark Patterson as they bring us mission updates and talk about their work.