A Florida man is biding his time after breaking a world record some 30 feet beneath the water’s surface of a lagoon.
On May 16, Dr. Joseph Dituri — a 55-year-old researcher and associate professor at the University of South Florida — broke the previous record of 73 days for the most extended time living underwater. The entire mission costs approximately $100,000 and, according to Dituri, is being partially funded out of his own pocket and primarily by the International Board of Undersea Medicine and the Marine Resources Development Foundation.
Speaking to TODAY.com over Zoom from his 100-square-foot lodge, the clinical researcher says his 100-day underwater mission — or "Project Neptune 100" — is about so much more than sinking a world record.
Dituri, known as Dr. Deep Sea on Instagram and Youtube, says that a large part of his mission stems from his interest in understanding the human body’s capacity to survive in an isolated, confined and extreme environment.
Dituri underlines that our ability to understand these measurements could take us far, potentially even to Mars. To get there, however, biomedical researchers will have to understand how humans will function on Mars once they arrive.
“Every single astronaut that comes off the International Space Station has to be carried off it after (they’ve been there for) six months,” he points out.
Those questions, Dituri says, beg for answers that NASA continues to research on how extended durations in space will affect the human body.
More than determining how to pursue research on other planets, Dituri says his mission also aims to energize future generations.
“We get to energize kids and talk to them about science, technology, engineering and math,” he says of the attention on his mission. “Kids are the future of what we’re doing. We need you guys to help solve the problems. We need you guys to add diversity of thought.”
Dituri also notes his interest in preserving, protecting and rejuvenating the marine environment.
“We need to preserve (our oceans),” he further explains. “We need to get the word out to the general public to stop throwing trash in the ocean. Let’s pick something up. Everybody does something. One person can’t do everything you know.”
In the name of all these things, Dituri says he spends his days underwater, physically isolated from his partner and children. In his lodgings, he has the option of four small beds, a “rain closet” for showers, and a small commode. He kicks off his mornings with three eggs for breakfast, water and two cups of coffee. Not that he needs the latter. According to Dituri, his time underwater has dramatically improved his energy.
“I get about four hours of deep and REM sleep per night,” he says, noting that he sleeps six hours per night and spends the rest of his day working. He notes that counter to previous reports about his expedition, he takes no naps.
During the day, Dituri ticks off a list of tasks. He teaches classes as an assistant professor of medicine at the University of South Florida’s Morsani Medical College and as an associate professor of biomedical engineering at the school’s Department of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering. He also does science, technology, engineering and math outreach for children.
In addition to all of this, he does interviews with the media and runs tests to evaluate his internal functions. He plugs up and does an electrocardiogram in addition to capturing readings on a blood pressure cuff and a pulse oximeter every day.
Expecting around a month left of his mission, Dituri says his time underwater has been far from boring.
“I am doing what I love, and I’m having the time of my life,” he explains, adding that he does miss his partner and children deeply.
Still, he says he’s far from lonely. The medical experts part of the International Board of Undersea Medicine consistently come to monitor his mental and physical health. He's also made friends with the undersea creatures who've allowed him to live in their habitat.
“My friend Fred lives right down there,” he says, adjusting his camera to show off a lobster friend he says hello to every day. “I go see the seahorse every night. I go see the barracudas just to say hello.”