University professor in Florida sets record for living underwater

KEY LARGO, Fla. — A professor and diving explorer on Saturday set a record for the longest time living underwater without pressurization.

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Joseph Dituri, 55, an associate professor at the University of South Florida, spent his 74th day living in Jules’ Undersea Lodge, WTVJ reported. The lodge is located at the bottom of a 30-foot lagoon near Key Largo, and Dituri has been submerged since March 1, according to the television station.

Nicknamed “Dr. Deep Sea,” Dituri broke the record set in 2014 by set by Tennessee professors Bruce Cantrell and Jessica Fain at the same location, WTVJ reported. The previous record-holders stayed under the surface for 73 days, 2 hours, 34 minutes, according to The Associated Press.

“I’m humbled that my curiosity for discovery has led me here,” Dituri told WTSP-TV. “My goal is to inspire -- not only for generations to come -- but for scientists around the globe who study life undersea and how the human body functions when in extreme environments.”

Dituri plans to stay in the 100-square-foot habitat for 100 days, which would be June 9, but setting that milestone is not his focus.

“The record is a small bump and I really appreciate it,” Dituri, who owns a doctorate in biomedical engineering and is a retired U.S. Naval officer, told the AP. “I’m honored to have it, but we still have more science to do.”

A psychologist and psychiatrist have been documenting the mental effects of living in a confined environment over a long period of time, the University of South Florida stated in a news release.

“The human body has never been underwater that long, so I will be monitored closely,” Dituri said. “This study will examine every way this journey impacts my body, but my null hypothesis is that there will be improvements to my health due to the increased pressure.”

In addition to research, Dituri has been conducting online classes in marine science and has taught more than 2,500 students, the AP reported. He has also continued to teach his regular load of biomedical engineering courses at USF.

While Dituri said he enjoys living beneath the waves, he longs for sunshine.

“The thing that I miss the most about being on the surface is literally the sun,” Dituri told the AP. “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.”

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