KEY LARGO, Florida Keys — On Wednesday, March 1, Dr. Joseph Dituri began the first of his planned 100 days submerged at Jules’ Undersea Lodge in Key Largo during the Project NEPTUNE 100 mission, where he will be conducting groundbreaking medical and marine science research and setting a record for underwater human habitation at ambient pressure.
While undersea, he is teaching online classes and welcoming science-focused digital influencers.
Dituri peers out of a large porthole from inside Jules’ Undersea Lodge, located 30 feet below the surface in a Key Largo lagoon, to see diver and Jules’ founder Ian Koblick delivering an Explorer’s Club flag.Photo: Frazier Nivens
The hyperbaric medicine researcher, educator and diving explorer submerged March 1 to live and work in the undersea lodge at the Marine Resources Development Foundation’s MarineLab facility that has been converted into a sub-sea hotel suite lying 30 feet beneath the surface.
The groundbreaking mission earned a prestigious Explorer’s Club flag, delivered to the habitat by Jules’ founder, Ian Koblick, a 45-year member of the Explorer’s Club.
Dituri, a retired U.S. Navy commander with a doctorate in biomedical engineering, plans to resurface June 9 after completing his 100-day mission. The previous record for human sub-sea habitation at ambient pressure is 73 days, set in 2014 by Tennessee teachers Bruce Cantrell and Jessica Fain, who also spent their time submerged at Jules’ Undersea Lodge.
Marine scientist Dr. Hunter Hines labels microbial specimens collected from the lagoon surrounding Jules’ Undersea Lodge.
Dituri’s objectives include furthering his research on the positive influence of hyperbaric oxygen therapy on human health and exploring the ocean’s role in the treatment of disease.
In addition to marine scientists to assist with ocean studies, he has assembled a team of physicians and researchers to study everything about him during the 100-day mission.
“We’ll be doing science like no one has done science with EKGs, psychological and sociological evaluations, sleep diaries and exercise tracking, for instance,” Dituri said.
He believes the results of his highly analyzed mission of living and working in a small compartment under pressure will be important for the future of long-duration space travel, including missions to Mars, as well as for undersea exploration.
Dituri also will hold regular online classes including the hyperbaric medicine classes he teaches at University of South Florida and college-level biomedical engineering courses for high school students.
Renowned oceanographer, marine biologist and National Geographic Explorer Dr. Sylvia Earle, along with other highly regarded researchers and scientists, are to join Dituri undersea as speakers during the planned online classes and broadcasts.
Several thousand students taking part in MarineLab scheduled programs during the mission are to interact virtually with Dituri. As many as 40 young divers in middle and high school are to spend 24 hours in the habitat, participating in marine science exercises and resurfacing as certified aquanauts.
Other planned visitors include young digital influencers who create content on STEM-related topics — science, technology, engineering and math.
“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, to protect and rejuvenate the marine environment.” Dituri said.
Event information: mrdf.org/project-neptune