Longest time spent underwater: An extraordinary world record

Deep beneath the surface of the Florida Keys, a world record holder is sitting in a small pressurized container. With an award for the longest time spent underwater clipped to his belt, this dude is in it to win it.

Dr. Joseph Dituri spent one hundred days underwater.
Dr. Joseph Dituri spent one hundred days underwater.  © Collage: IMAGO/Cover-Images

We're not meant to spend much time underwater. Our fingers shrivel up, and our body temperature gets gradually lower and lower until (assuming that you have an oxygen supply) things get dangerous. Modern technology allows for some extraordinary things, though, and creates some truly insane achievements.

So who holds the world record for the longest time spent underwater? What made it possible, and how did he manage to live underwater for so long? Oh, and what is a living world habitat?

Can humans live underwater?

Humans are not built to survive submerged in water. Our bodies are brittle, fleshy things that rely on oxygen and are not meant to be constantly wet. On top of that, continuous submersion in water will gradually lower our body temperature - this can quite quickly lead to hypothermia if we are not careful.

With technology comes solutions, though, and if there's anything we have in abundance in 2023, it's technology. Submarines have existed for decades, providing pressurized capsules that simulate the conditions of surface life while allowing us to dive deep into the bosom of the big blue sea.

Even so, the constant pressure changes and the unbelievably restrictive and claustrophobic nature of underwater travel and living are things that few people enjoy. It's intense, it's hard, it's unpleasant, and it has some pretty serious physical and mental health consequences.

As a result, while it is possible to subsist and live underwater for short periods with the help of technology, it is not something that is possible indefinitely.

Who spent the longest time underwater?

On May 13, 2023, Dr. Joseph Dituri was awarded a Guinness World Record for being the person to have spent the longest time living underwater in history. At the time, Dr. Dituri - who goes by Dr. Deep Sea - was 74 days into his stay in a small living world habitat more than 20 feet below the surface of the Florida Keys.

Extraordinarily, Dituri's goal was not simply to beat and achieve a world record but to measure the long-term effects of increased pressure on his body. The mission began on March 1, 2023, and continued until he emerged on Sunday, June 11, after a hundred days. Throughout the experience, the scientist engaged in a variety of interviews and educational interactions with school children.

"I am living 22 feet (6.7 m) below the surface in Key Largo to study what happens to the human body in an isolated confined extreme environment," he said to Guinness World Records. The project has beat the previous record of 73 days and has been dubbed "Project Neptune 100". It was organized by the Marine Resources Development Foundation.

How did he achieve the longest time underwater?

Joseph Dituri, otherwise known as Dr. Deep Sea, emerged on Sunday, June 11, 2023.
Joseph Dituri, otherwise known as Dr. Deep Sea, emerged on Sunday, June 11, 2023.  © IMAGO/Cover-Images

Dr. Deep Sea managed to achieve this record-breaking underwater stint by living in an underwater hotel called Jules' Undersea Lodge. It is located in Key Largo, Florida, and has around 100 square feet of usable space. Interestingly, the underwater capsule is actually the same one that was used to achieve the previous world record for the longest time spent underwater.

At a depth of only 22 feet, the underwater pod has been pressurized to be the same as the surrounding water. As a result, the atmospheric pressure that Joseph Dituri was living in was an entire seventy percent higher than it is on dry land. Part of the experiment is to see whether this pressure has any health benefits.

"We are conducting blood samples, urine samples, saliva samples, electrocardiograms, electroencephalograms, pulmonary function tests, blood pressure tests, as well as hearing and ear tests followed by a series of oxygen testing," said Dr. Joseph Dituri.

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Upon surfacing, CBS Miami claimed that the experiment may have worked. Apparently, Dituri was an inch shorter than when he went underwater, had improved his sleep, and reduced bodily inflammation. Interestingly, his cholesterol was also significantly lowered. It won't be until a proper scientific analysis and report has been released, however, that we will find out more.

Ultimately, during his time under the sea, Dituri subsisted on food that was supplied to him - fresh fruit, vegetables, proteins, and frozen meals - and kept himself busy with various activities. He achieved his goal through a combination of remarkable technology and personal willpower.

What is a living world habitat?

An underwater living world habitat is basically just a pod that has been submerged underwater and pressurized to maintain human life. It is warmed, powered, and supplied with a mix of oxygen and all the other typical gases that make up the air that we breathe. Inside are supplied all the various things that a person needs to survive.

It's basically an underwater studio apartment. You can cook in there, sleep, breath, live, and exist. Of course, it's extremely claustrophobic (it's just a small pod submerged in water, after all), but it's enough to get by if you need to live underwater for some reason.

A living world habitat is an underwater habitat designed to be inhabited by a human being.
A living world habitat is an underwater habitat designed to be inhabited by a human being.  © IMAGO/Cover-Images

This is one underwater record to write home about!

Dr. Deep Sea achieved his goal of one hundred days, proving a point and doing something far better than just getting himself a simple world record. Indeed, the dude beat that previous record, but spending more-or-less a third of a year submerged in water? That's something else entirely! Surely this is a movie waiting to be filmed.

When he emerged into the sunlight, coming out of the damp depths on Sunday, June 11, Dituri had spent 26 days underwater longer than he needed to achieve the record. Having participated in an extraordinary piece of research, he explained to CBS that it was about "human tolerance," not a world record.

"It was about extending human tolerance for the underwater world and for an isolated, confined, extreme environment."

Cover photo: Collage: IMAGO/Cover-Images

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