Professor smashes underwater living record after 100 days submerged

A professor has broken the record for spending most days living underwater, but has lost half an inch in height doing so.

Joseph Dituri emerged from his watery home in Key Largo, Florida, on Friday (June 9) after spending 100 days residing in a 100-square-foot special habitat, 25 feet below the surface.

He smashed the previous record by 27 days, which was set in 2014 by two Tennessee professors.

Dituri, a biomedical engineering professor at the University of South Florida, didn’t embark on his underwater adventure to break records, but to study how life down there, living in a pressurised environment, affects the human body.

And the most notable piece of information to have been gleaned initially from the experiment is that he has shrunk by half an inch, which he attributes to living in compression.

A medical team ran tests on him while he was underwater and already it has been revealed that he has seen his cholesterol drop by 72 points, he has got 60-66% rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep, compared to 40% before he started, while his inflammation (which causes disease) has gone down by 30%.

His team will continue monitoring his brain waves, heart rate, blood pressure, ear pressure, urine, oxygen saturation and muscle measurements.

He may get his height back once he’s lived back on land for a few weeks, although he’s unsure about that.

“That’s part of experimentation, right?” he said. “That’s part of science. That’s the cool part.”

He made sure not to change his diet while he was beneath the waves – going alcohol-free and eating three eggs in the morning, a hearty salad for lunch and meat and vegetables for dinner – so that any difference in his biochemistry would be the result of the altered living conditions. He stayed in shape by doing 100 pushups and sit-ups a day, in addition to yoga.

While isolated in his underwater apartment, he did have some company on occasions, with visits from 60 different people, including his mother, brother, schoolchildren and a handful of scientists. 

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He also made friends with his sea companions, naming a lobster Fred, who he saw literally grow larger and start a family, he also saw his very first seahorse, while he swam with a manatee.

“From plankton getting eaten by worms to getting eaten by little fish to getting eaten by big fish, when you’re immersed you see the entire thing,” he said.

He revealed he missed having regular contact with his wife and three daughters, saying: “We’re creatures that are tactile in nature. Boy, there’s none of that down there.

“I got to the point where I was like, ‘OK, I’m gonna need a hug’. And when I got up, I met every marker for every hug that I wanted. I got all the high-fives that I wanted and all the handshakes.”

Dituri and his team will now spend the next six months studying all the data and observations and will present their findings at the World Extreme Medical Conference in Edinburgh, in November.

“To explore anything new always results in personal and professional discoveries,” Dituri said. “This experience has changed me in important ways, and my greatest hope is that I have inspired a new generation of explorers and researchers to push past all boundaries.”

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