A retired U.S. Navy officer this week began the first stretch of what he plans on being 100 days living in an undersea hotel in the Florida Keys.
If he is successful, he will break the previous record of 73 days spent inside Jules’ Undersea Lodge in Key Largo. That record was set in 2014 by two researchers in Tennessee.
Joseph Dituri, 55, who retired from the Navy with the rank of commander, plans to conduct medical and science research and set the record for human underwater habitation at ambient pressure, according to the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.
“It’s not so much about the record, 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, who holds a doctorate in biomedical engineering and teaches hyperbaric medicine, said in a statement.
He entered the facility Wednesday.
Jules’ Undersea Lodge, located 30 feet below the water in a Key Largo lagoon, was originally an underwater marine research laboratory, and became a lodge in 1986, said Andy Newman, spokesman for the Tourist Development Council. It has two private bedrooms and a common room, according to the lodge’s website. It attracts tourists and scientists.
Dituri is calling his Jules’ research “Project NEPTUNE,” and he will be tested and analyzed to “evaluate the impacts of living in a confined, extreme environment,” Newman said.
Much of the testing is expected to focus on Dituri’s field of hyperbaric medicine, which treats conditions like carbon monoxide poisoning and infections that deprive human tissues of oxygen, Newman said. He will have a medical team that will document health results, including a possible increase in the production of stem cells.
“We can make you basically grow new blood vessels, so there’s a bunch of good benefits of hyperbaric medicine that we’re going to be testing,” Dituri said.
While underwater, Dituri will teach online high school and college classes in hyperbaric medicine, and 40 young divers will spend 24 hours with him “to become certified aquanauts,” Newman said.
Other marine scientists, including oceanographer Sylvia Earle, are also expected to join Dituri underwater for the online classes, Newman said.
The project could potentially benefit other other worldly endeavors.
A team of scientists contracted by NASA is planning to test a new “artificial intelligence-based medical evaluation system” for use in long-duration space flights while Dituri is living at Jule’s.
“For 100 days, I have to live in 100 square feet,” he said. “That’s a pretty tight little motorhome — same as when we’re going to Mars.”
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