In the name of ocean conservation and education, two professors from Roane State Community College set a world record for living underwater for 73 days, 2 hours and 34 minutes in the Florida Keys, according to the school.
Bruce Cantrell and Jessica Fain, hands clasped, slowly emerged from the water Monday and high-fived as they broke the record set by Richard Presley, who spent 69 days, 19 minutes living underwater in 1992 in the same Jules' Undersea Lodge used by the professors.
Fain also shattered the world record for a female living underwater, breaking the 14-day mark set in 1970 by scientist Dr. Sylvia Earle.
"There is a sun," Cantrell said after taking off his mask. "I forgot all about that."
"It's warm," Fain said.
Reuters has the story with some footage of the pair living underwater:
Cantrell and Fain set out to educate the public about ocean conservation, to inspire young people's interest in science and to make history. They succeeded on all fronts.
"Going in, we had goals that we wanted to accomplish," Cantrell said. "At the end of 73 days, I think we've exceeded those goals. We've reached a lot of people. Now the challenge for us is to carry that forward."
Added Fain, "I really hope that people take away from this that the oceans are something that we need to protect. We need to learn more about the oceans and how they work."
The Jules' Undersea Lodge is a hotel open to the public in Key Largo, Florida. Described as cottage-sized, it sits 25 feet below the surface and features 42-inch round windows, beds, hot showers, a kitchen, books, music, and videos.
Cantrell and Fain used the underwater hotel as a classroom, hosting nine episodes of an online lecture series titled “Classroom Under the Sea” and conducting video chats with students across the country and around the world.
The video content posted on the Classroom Under the Sea project has been viewed on YouTube in 124 countries.
Presley was on hand Monday to congratulate the professors on besting his record.
"It's exciting to see the focus more on education and using technology to involve more students," Presley said. "We didn't have that technology in '92."
While living underwater, Cantrell also taught a college-credit course—Biology 2600: Living and Working Under the Sea—for Roane State students.
Cantrell and Fain received dozens of letters from students during the project, making it all worthwhile.
"When you start hearing back from these students, and they're telling you, 'This is so cool' and 'What's it like living underwater?' you really feel like you are reaching your goals," Fain said. "You feel like you are making a big difference in their lives. We brought a whole new world to some of these kids."
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