KEY LARGO, Fla. (AP) — An underwater researcher submerged Wednesday to begin a 100-day mission in the Florida Keys, attempting to set a record for underwater human habitation at ambient pressure, as well as educating students and conducting medical and marine science research.
Retired U.S. Navy commander Joseph Dituri, 55, who holds a doctorate in biomedical engineering and teaches hyperbaric medicine, plans to live and work until June 9 at Jules’ Undersea Lodge. The facility, situated 30 feet beneath the surface in a Key Largo lagoon, was originally fabricated as a marine research laboratory and converted into an underwater hotel in 1986.
The previous record for human subsea habitation at ambient pressure is 73 days, set in 2014 at Jules’ by two Tennessee university educators.
“It’s not so much about the record,” Dituri said. “It’s more about incentivizing the next generation of kids to come down here to learn how to preserve, protect and to rejuvenate the marine environment.”
Dituri, a Tampa resident, plans to conduct online high school and college classes in hyperbaric medicine and welcome some 40 young divers, who will spend 24 hours undersea with him to become certified aquanauts.
Top marine scientists, including renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle, are scheduled to join Dituri underwater for online classes and broadcasts.
During Project Neptune 100, Dituri will be tested and analyzed to evaluate the effects of living in a confined, extreme environment.
Much research will focus on hyperbaric medicine, which delivers oxygen under increased pressure to treat conditions like carbon monoxide poisoning and infections that starve tissues of oxygen. During Dituri’s 100 days underwater, his medical team will document health results, including potential increased production of stem cells.