The Great Blue Hole, a natural sinkhole and top 5 diving destination of the world, off the coast of Belize, held the international spotlight on Sunday for a two-hour ‘Live’ broadcast on Discovery Channel in a special segment called “Into the Blue Hole”. This incredible underwater expedition conducted under the auspices of a Vancouver-based submarine technology company Aquatica Submarines, Business magnate Richard Branson and grandson of the great Jacques Cousteau, Fabian Cousteau, highlighted thousands of years of history and a step closer into completing a comprehensive mapping of the entire cave system.
Despite choppy sea conditions and battling 30 knot winds, the crew did not abort the mission and continued to take the plunge on December 1st, up to its full depth. Taking the descending plunge was a team comprised of Ocean Unite founder Richard Branson, and ocean conservationist Fabien Cousteau, grandson of the legendary Jacques, and Erika Bergman, the submersible’s pilot. As the crew ascended, the underwater ecosystem continued to completely change, revealing majestic cave formations cited as thousands of years old. With the vessel fully equipped with cameras and additional lighting, viewers got a firsthand look at what they uncovered. Despite any sights of marine life, the explorers ventured down to its bottom in a fully manned submersible at its total depth 410 feet.
After the dive, the submersibles pilot, Erika Bergman stated “It was a huge success for us. This is just the start of our mission to map and canvas every inch of the blue hole so that we have a better understanding of what happened in the past and so that we can better prepare in the future.” Meanwhile, Discovery says the data collected will help construct real-life models of the Blue Hole’s geographical features to help researchers and scientists from around the world understand how changing sea levels affected its formation and to provide key information about climate change patterns.
Fabian Cousteau expressed his excitement to go back down in the two weeks of mapping the Blue Hole and urged viewers to ‘develop a passion for ocean exploration’. Richard Branson expressed his content in meeting with Belize’s Prime Minister and acknowledged the government’s efforts in “banning oil exploration, banning single-use plastics, discontinuing gillnet fishing practices and protecting the country’s marine ecosystems.”
And while there continues to be many legends surrounding this fascinating sinkhole, the vessels will continue to explore the Blue Hole for two weeks after the dive and track the site.
Located 46 miles off the coast of Belize, the Blue Hole is known around the world for its crystal-clear water and its abundance of sharks and sea life. But this remote spot has only ever been fully explored once, in 1971, by legendary ocean expert Jacques Cousteau.