Living 22 ft (6.7 m) below the surface of the Florida Keys, a scientist is biding his time.
Having already broken the record for the longest time spent living in an underwater fixed habitat, Dr Joseph Dituri, who goes by Dr Deep Sea, is planning to spend 100 days in a subaquatic compound.
As of 13 May 2023, Dituri had already spent 74 days in the Jules’ Undersea Lodge and had just 26 days to go, in an effort to research the long-term effects of increased pressure on the body.
The previous record was set by Jessica Fain and Bruce Cantrell after spending 73 days 2 hours and 34 minutes at the same location.
Jules’ Undersea Lodge is an American hotel located in Key Largo, Florida, USA, consisting of about 100 square feet (9.2 sq m) of useable space.
The lodge, which opened in 1986, is located at the bottom of the Emerald Lagoon and is the only underwater hotel in the United States.
“I am living 22 feet (6.7 m) below the surface in Key Largo to study what happens to the human body in an isolated confined extreme environment,” said Dituri.
“Additionally, we intended to and have interacted with thousands of school children to get them interested in science, technology, engineering, and math.
“Finally, we have talked to many PHDs and MDS to discuss ways to preserve and protect the marine environment.”
Dituri’s 100-day mission began on 1 March 2023 with plans to resurface on Friday 9 June 2023.
To get into Jules’ Undersea Lodge, he had to enter through the moon pool in a wet pod, meaning the entire area is pressurized.
The entire habitat is pressurized to the depth of the moon pool to keep the water out and Dituri had to use a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus to get in and out, making the process a continually long dive.
In the underwater pod, the atmospheric pressure is 70% higher than at the surface.
Dituri believes this could be the answer to reversing the ageing process and helping people live even longer.
“We are conducting blood samples, urine samples, saliva samples, electrocardiograms, electroencephalograms, pulmonary function tests, blood pressure tests, as well as hearing and ear tests followed by a series of oxygen testing,” he said.
“The most interesting thing is that the human body responds quite well to living at pressure for sustained periods of time including 60 to 66% deep in REM sleep.”
Physicians are gathering data on Dituri’s health to compare to tests that were performed before his underwater mission and will be performing the tests once again when he rises to the surface.
The information will determine how the confined, rich-oxygen environment can impact an individual both mentally and physically.
During his time spent underwater, Dituri researches on himself for about six hours and then does outreach for anywhere from three to four hours before getting into the water to swim around.
He then engages in two to three interviews per day and meditates or journals when he begins to feel lonely.
Before his underwater descent, a CAT5 cable was run into the habitat and spliced into a network router.
“We have good Wi-Fi,” said Dituri.
“Most of the time it’s better than any other place I’m calling.”
Dituri receives the occasional underwater visitor and has seen about 50 people in total.
Additionally, there is a topside team of 10 medical doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists looking after Dituri, as well as an entire surface support team.
Dituri is continually resupplied with food every three days, including fresh fruit and vegetables, largely frozen foods, and frozen chicken and other proteins.
Dituri says he spent a lifetime of work to prepare for this mission, including 28 years in the Navy as a saturation diver and expert in physics and physiology.
“I suggest that should anybody wish to do this that they get together a team of very smart people as I did and make sure you listen to them when planning the mission,” he said.
Although Dituri is glad to have achieved a Guinness World Records title, he says he is more focused on the science at the moment.
“While I appreciate having and holding the world record, I think it is much more important to have the research done,” he said.
“I wasn't really setting out to break a record... that normally isn't my mentality... that’s why I didn't just go to one day past the record... I set a line in the sand to help humanity and it just so happens to have broken a record.”
Next, Dituri intends to take the science that he has performed and further apply it under zero-gravity circumstances such as the zero-g aircraft.
He will also be presenting his biomedical engineering findings during his underwater mission at the World Extreme Medicine Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland in November 2023.
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