Some exciting findings have been made by a team of scientists returning from Belize’s Great Blue Hole in Central America. The team included Virgin Group billionaire Sir Richard Branson as well as Fabien Cousteau, grandson of underwater explorer, Jacques Cousteau .
There are many sink holes around the world but the Great Blue is the largest, measuring 984 feet across and about 410 feet deep. Jacques Cousteau explored the Great Blue Hole back in 1971 and made it first known to the world.
The team of scientists, on board two submarines, created the first 3D map of the interior of the Great Blue and were able to take new images with a 360 sonar scanner. Erika Bergman, chief pilot, oceanographer and operations manager, shared with CNN Travel that the images were really remarkable because of the never-before-seen stalactites (mineral formations shaped like icicles) very near the bottom around 407 feet down. These stalactites, she said, had never been discovered or mapped previously, which made the find exciting.
Another thing Bergman shared was the unusual experience of being submerged in the murky depths of a hydrogen sulfide layer at around 300 feet which cuts out all light as they descended into complete darkness.
However, in spite of the black darkness, the team was able to see the Great Blue’s intricate features with their high-resolution sonar. Bergman shared that it was better than natural eyesight. They were also very pleased that it was pretty much clear of trash. Bergman cited the work of the Belize Audubon Society and its work in protecting the hole.
Bergman was happy to share how good it is that there are some places on our earth that are still exactly as they were thousands of years ago and will remain that way thousands of years from now. She said the team left no equipment behind.
The expedition was made on December 2, 2018 and was broadcast livestream from the bottom of the hole drawing in the public to vicariously experience the exploration high an dry above from their TV screens or electronic devices. Following this initial dive, it took two weeks for more monitoring to obtain all the dots to create the 360 degree sonar map.
The team’s next expedition is planned for the waters of the British Virgin Islands. There are no plans for a lifestream broadcast, however, but the team is hoping for a lot of good footage and new findings.