Retired Navy commander Joe Dituri, also known as “Dr. Deep Sea,” has set out to break the Guinness World Record for the longest underwater habitation. His ambitious mission, Project Neptune 100, involves spending 100 days underwater conducting groundbreaking medical and marine science research, strongly focusing on conservation, education and outreach.
The accomplished explorer and educator will spend his days in Jules’ Undersea Lodge, a retired marine research laboratory-turned-sub-sea-hotel-suite 22 feet deep in a lagoon in the Florida Keys. Accessible only by scuba, the 100-square-foot suite consists of a small kitchen and living space, bunk beds, a few “windows” to Emerald Lagoon and a bathroom. All equipment, food and belongings must be brought underwater by a support team, which enters via a moon pool. The convenient addition of WiFi allows Dituri to continue remotely teaching hyperbaric medicine courses for the University of South Florida (USF) and college-level biomedical engineering courses for high school students.
Dituri will further his research on the positive influence of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on human health, the Florida Keys reported. “The human body has never been underwater that long, so I will be monitored closely,” Dituri said in a USF statement. Hyperbaric medicine delivers oxygen under increased pressure to treat conditions like carbon monoxide poisoning and infections that starve tissues of oxygen.
At this increased and sustained pressure, a team of physicians and researchers will study everything about Dituri’s physical and mental states, looking for results such as increased production of stem cells. Dituri believes they will find improvements in his health due to the increased pressure.
“We’ll be doing science like no one has done science with EKGs, psychological and sociological evaluations, sleep diaries and exercise tracking,” Dituri said in the report. “We’re doing human research, and I happen to be the guinea pig,” he joked on NPR’s All Things Considered.
Dituri did express one major concern. The habitat is “basically a prison cell,” he told NPR. While he can exit the habitat for a dive around the lagoon, he has to return to the confined space devoid of sunlight. “It’s kinda tough,” he adds, “isolated from family, friends…I have three daughters, so I don’t get to see them.” Still, he is eager to complete his mission, “all in the name of science.”
Luckily, Dituri will have a suite of visitors diving down to his underwater abode to keep him company while furthering the mission’s educational outreach. Among them is noted marine scientist Sylvia Earle, who will have 24 hours beneath the sea to discuss the state of the oceans.
Forty young divers will also spend 24 hours undersea with the saturation diver, conducting science experiments and becoming certified aquanauts. He told OceanNews, “By getting the word out, incentivizing the next generation to preserve, protect and rejuvenate the marine environment, we win.”
Dituri and his team believe their research on living and working in confined, pressurized habitats in extreme environments will be important for the future of undersea exploration and long-duration space travel, including missions to Mars.
If successful, Dituri will resurface on June 9 and become the record holder for human subsea habitation at ambient pressure, smashing the existing 73-day record, set in 2014 also at Jules’ by two Tennessee university educators.
Could You Live Underwater for 100 Days? One Man Is Attempting To Do So, for Science, Medicine and Ocean Conservation | Scuba Diving