Jules’ Undersea Lodge, the United States’ only submerged recreational hotel, reopened to overnight divers on Friday, 1 December.
The famed lodge, located at Key Largo Undersea Park, sustained no damage when Hurricane Irma struck the Florida Keys on 10 September. At the park, however, the Category 4 storm damaged a property generator and above ground facilities, temporarily discoloured its Emerald Lagoon and scattered debris from downed tree limbs and foliage.
The lagoon reopened to divers and snorkellers in early November after an extensive clean-up.
“The excitement of having our first guests back after Irma is that we can again offer the public the technology of undersea living and what is required to sustain it,” said Teresa McKinna, vice president and chief financial officer. “People are interested in the science of it all.”
The lodge, whose entrance is 21 feet beneath the surface, has two bedrooms and can comfortably host a maximum of six scuba-certified guests. Divers deliver supplies such as linens through an underwater opening called a moon pool.
A dockside compressor pushes scrubbed and filtered air into the lodge. Land-based dive operators closely monitor the air and safety of underwater guests during activities such as venturing out for a dive.
Guests can order fresh local pizza in an original box or choose gourmet meal options of filet and Florida lobster, baked potato, roll and homemade Key lime pie. Food is delivered in a weighted waterproof case.
The facility has hosted more than 10,000 overnight guests including Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, actor Tim Allen and rock star Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.
A Tennessee college professor and instructor stayed in the lodge for a record-breaking 73 days in 2014 during a “Classroom Under the Sea” underwater living mission, which the Guinness Book of World Records cites as the “longest time spent living in an underwater fixed habitat.”
Jules’ overnight experience also offers what the lodge bills as the world’s only Recreational Aquanaut speciality scuba diving recognition. Its MarineLab educational programmes teach about 5,000 students each year.
The lodge initially was the bright orange La Chalupa research laboratory, one of the most technologically advanced habitats of its kind. It conducted sea floor studies and saturation dive currents. First based in Vieques, Puerto Rico, La Chalupa was immersed in 100 feet of water, then moved to Miami and later to Key Largo to the park’s lagoon.
The lodge’s current name was inspired by novelist Jules Verne’s ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.’ Opened in 1986, it celebrated 30 years underwater in November 2016.