Researcher in Florida Keys Breaks Record for Underwater Habitation
KEY LARGO, Florida Keys – Diving explorer and medical researcher Dr. Joseph Dituri broke the record for the longest time living underwater at ambient pressure Saturday, his 74th day residing in the Jules' Undersea Lodge habitat in Key Largo.
The previous record of 73 days, two hours and 34 minutes was set by two professors from Tennessee – Bruce Cantrell and Jessica Fain – at the same location in 2014.
Dituri’s undersea residence isn’t over, however. He isn’t planning to return to the surface until he reaches 100 days in the habitat on June 9, completing an underwater mission dubbed Project Neptune 100. The mission combines medical and ocean research along with educational outreach and was organized by the Marine Resources Development Foundation, owner of the habitat.
“The record is a small bump and we love it, and I really appreciate it and I’m honored to have it, but we still have more science to do; the science doesn’t stop here,” said Dituri.
His research includes daily experiments in physiology to monitor how the human body responds to long-term exposure to extreme pressure. The results will hopefully benefit astronauts living on the International Space Station and participating in other future long-term space missions, and ocean researchers seeking to study the marine environment for extended periods of time.
“The idea here is to populate the world’s oceans to take care of them by living in them and really treating them well, not necessarily just make another record,” Dituri added.
Dituri’s daily routine includes preparing protein-heavy meals such as eggs and salmon using a microwave, along with salads. Exercise includes working out with resistance bands, daily pushups and about one-hour of diving in the 30-foot-deep lagoon surrounding the habitat, while never surfacing.
The outreach portion of Dituri’s mission includes online classes and broadcast interviews from his digital studio beneath the sea. During the past 74 days, he has reached over 2,500 students through online classes in marine science and more with his regular biomedical engineering courses at the University of South Florida.
He has also had lots of company in his undersea lodge. Thirty-four adults and 15 middle and high school students have each spent at least 24 hours in the habitat to earn certificates as aquanauts.
While he says he loves living under the ocean, there is one thing he really misses.
“The thing that I miss the most about being on the surface is literally the sun,” Dituri said. “The sun has been a major factor in my life – I usually go to the gym at five and then I come back out and watch the sunrise.”
Dr. Joseph Dituri peers out of a large porthole at Jules' Undersea Lodge after breaking the underwater habitation record on May 13, 2023. Photo: Frazier Nivens
Joseph Dituri, right, waves to scuba diver Thane Milhoan, left, on the 74th day of his planned 100-day mission. Photo: Frazier Nivens