NOAA 2002-R608
Contact: David P. Miller
NOAA News Releases 2002
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When Marissa Chmiola from Harrisburg wanted to visit NOAA's underwater habitat, Aquarius, she went about it in the "write" way.

The 10th-grader from Cedar Cliff High School is one of two winners of a writing contest that offered as the top prize a trip down to Florida and a visit to the world's only underwater laboratory/habitat.

The contest, held for the first time this year, was open to students in grades 8-12 and required entrants to write an essay of no more than 1,000 words describing why they would want to live under the sea in Aquarius, which is anchored off of the coast of Florida.

In her essay, Marissa wrote: "I want to live ten days under the ocean in Aquarius because I want the chance to live under the sea, where the fish swim free, give the scientists aid, and most importantly, make sure these treasures never fade."

The winning students, along with their sponsoring teachers and parents, will meet with Aquarius scientists, dive to Aquarius, and post their adventures on the Aquarius website,, during their July 21-22 visits.

Aquarius is an underwater laboratory where scientists live and work on the seafloor for extended periods using a special technique called saturation diving. The 12 foot by 43 foot laboratory is located in NOAA's Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, 60 feet underwater, and 3.5 miles offshore. Owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and operated by the National Undersea Research Center at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Aquarius is the only undersea research station of its kind.

Andy Steadman, an eighth grader from Laing Middle School in Mount Pleasant, S.C is the other winner.

"Marissa and Andy submitted entries that were clearly identified by our judges as the best. They were thoughtful, creative, and well written for young students," said Steven Miller, director of the National Undersea Research Center that oversees Aquarius.

Entries were judged by an expert panel including marine biologists, journalists, and educators.

Eight entries were judged to be Honorable Mentions. The students will receive books about coral reefs.

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