The near-tragic story of one-of-a-kind technology 60 feet beneath the ocean surface
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Universal Pictures: Everest

The first time I saw "The Little Mermaid," the song "Under the Sea" left me wanting to take an underwater vacation.

C'mon. You know you want to hear it. GIF via "The Little Mermaid."


This line, y'all: "Just look at the world around you. Right here on the ocean floor. Such wonderful things surround you. What more is you looking for?"

Doesn't it make you want to just grow some gills?

We may not be able to live in the ocean, but scientists have developed a way to spend long stretches of time down there.

It's called the Aquarius Reef Base, and it was built a few decades ago, believe it or not. Today, it sits 60 feet underwater among the coral reefs of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Nature's paint job. Images via One World One Ocean/YouTube.

The Aquarius Reef Base is the only undersea laboratory and living space in the world.


Base director Thomas Potts describes Aquarius as "a one-of-a-kind saturation diving unit that is dedicated to science, education, and outreach" and "a complete immersive experience that you can find nowhere else on the planet."

Plus, it saves scientific teams time and money.

Saturation diving allows researchers to maximize their bottom time — or, as Sebastian from "The Little Mermaid" might put it, their time "under da sea." The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says a surface-based scuba mission "would take at least 60-70 days to match the same bottom time as a 10-day saturation mission."

When you consider the questions scientists are trying to answer down there, you realize the reef base isn't just a national treasure, it's a global one.

According to Florida International University:

"At Aquarius, scientists are at the cutting edge of research on coral reefs, ocean acidification, climate change, fisheries and the overall health of the oceans. ... Universities, government agencies and private industry have conducted more than 120 missions to discover, preserve, train and innovate. More than 600 scientific research papers have been published based on Aquarius science."

Stuff's gettin' done on Aquarius. And as if it wasn't already one of the best dollar-for-dollar science structures on the planet, Aquarius is even used to train astronauts before they leave the planet.

Despite its unique and vital role in science, Aquarius has become a victim of politics.

In 2012, funding for the base was slated for elimination when NOAA's national undersea research program was dropped due to budget cuts. The Aquarius budget was less than $4 million, "a drop in the bucket when you compare it to bigger picture items," said Potts. But that was the problem, wrote Ben Hellwarth:

"Ironically, Aquarius's low cost has likely contributed to its low profile. The program can be cut precisely because ordinary citizens haven't heard of it because it isn't expensive enough to be worth cutting. The lab is a perfect example of practical spending."

Suffice it to say, scientists and science lovers across the nation were like, "HOLD UP."

GIF via "The Little Mermaid."

Thankfully, Aquarius was saved by Florida International University, but it was too close for comfort.

We're talking about the future of the planet here, folks, so (1) it shouldn't matter how much it costs to study and protect it, and (2) it's a job that'll have to be done for the entirety of human existence.

So let's not just look at studying the ocean as our duty — which it is, so we have to fund it — but also, it's the ocean. It's huge and awesome and 50% to 80% of all life on Earth lives in it. Why not also view it as one way we celebrate life?

GIF via "The Little Mermaid."

Watch this introduction to the Aquarius Reef Base by One World One Ocean:

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Stories of women giving birth when they didn't even know they were pregnant are always a bit mind-boggling. Some people say they don't believe it's possible, but bodies are strange and some pregnancies really do fly under the radar.

Such was the case with Lavinia "Lavi" Mounga, who boarded a flight from Salt Lake City to Hawaii on April 28 with no inkling that she was carrying a baby, nor that he would make his grand entrance 35,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean.

"I didn't know I was pregnant and this guy just came out of nowhere," Mounga said in a video from Hawaii Pacific Health, where she and her newborn son, Raymond Mounga, were taken to after the plane landed. "It has been very overwhelming, and I'm just so lucky that there were three NICU nurses and a doctor on the plane to help me, and help stabilize him and make sure he was OK for the duration of the flight."

The doctor on board, Dr. Dale Glenn, is a family physician who practices in Honolulu. He told ABC 7 that an unusual emergency call came from the crew halfway through the flight.

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Courtesy of CeraVe
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"I love being a nurse because I have the honor of connecting with my patients during some of their best and some of their worst days and making a difference in their lives is among the most rewarding things that I can do in my own life" - Tenesia Richards, RN

From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.

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