TODAY   |  September 18, 2013

Get an inside look at the world’s only underwater lab

TODAY’s Kerry Sanders gives an exclusive tour of the only working underwater laboratory in the world, known as “Aquarius,” owned by Florida International University.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> with a today exclusive. a first look inside the world's only operating lab underwater. that's where we find kerry sanders this morning.

>> good morning guys. that's me flashing the light. come over this way. past the marine life and the barnacles and the algae that attached themselves to the habitat here and take a look inside. as a matter of fact, welcome inside here. this is the only habitat research center like this in the world. florida international university , professor, you can see him doing studies here right now. but to get here, first, you have to take a plunge.

>> it's a research habitat unlike any other where scientists can be close to their work, living under water for weeks on end.

>> aquarius lets you do six months worth of work underwater in a ten day mission.

>> surrounded by corral reefs and abundant sea life , it's off the florida keys and anchored on the ocean floor 63 feet down. an 80 ton steal claims per. just nine feet in diameter. about the size of a school bus . the only door is so wet port and it's actually underneath aquarius , an air pocket that makes it easy for scientists to come and go.

>> it's amazing. habitats like aquarius , and this is the only one in the world for research. they're a gift for scientists.

>> on the surface, a booey with life support supplying air and electricity down below and the cables also feed two-way communication to anywhere in the world, including ms. dean's third grade class in missouri.

>> we might even get to see a shark swim by if we're really lucky.

>> at the far end of the habitat, the sleeping quarters.

>> like a bunk bed . if you have a brother or sister you share a room with.

>> how many of you guys have a bunk bed you have to share with your brother or sister?

>> last week, astronauts from nasa spent five days here testing new technologies in what is as close to space's weightless environment found on earth.

>> we got a lot of data on the tools we developed. we gave them an experience that they can think about now before their space flight , or their next space flight . all in all. home run. couldn't have been better.

>> much of this is possible because of one man. 50 years ago his team spent 30 days in an underwater habitat . now, his grandson plans to come here to the florida keys to stay 31 days.

>> it's a great honor. it's also a great responsibility.

>> reporter: a rare opportunity to go where few have gone before.

>> amazing. i want to go back.

>> so of course i did come back. coming down here is a complicated task, especially go to the go live. we have to bring all of our gear down in containers like this. but we got it all here and there's not even any water in the lenses. guys, back to you.

>> the wet look really suits you kerry. got to love that commute to work for the researchers.

>> they love it. the weird thing is is what it feels like down here. there's pressure so as much as i try to swallow, i can't get rid of that pressure feel and it's a little bit like -- well, they like to joke down here that at two and a half atmospheres like it's two martinis. my voice is up a little bit. your voice rises a couple of octives and it makes you sleepy and what the astronauts do -- it's kind of strange -- this is what they put on. it's called an astronaut pillow and they lay down and it helps them sleep down here and apparently works. but there's a limited amount of time we can be down here before the nitrogen gets through your bloodstream. we going to limit our time down here so i'm going to come back out here. this is the wet porch area and we'll start making our way out, back up to the surface so we don't have to deal with decompression which is not a lot of fun.

>> that's so cool. you probably did better than most people because you're used to those two martinis.

>> he didn't deny it.