Picture taken from a aircraft flying over the spectacular Nice Blue Gap simply off the coast of Belize in Central America. Close to the centre of Lighthouse Reef, this spectacular marine sinkhole is 318m throughout and 124m deep. It’s also a part of Belizean Barrier Reef, the second largest reef system on the earth.Getty

Jacques Cousteau made the Nice Blue Gap well-known in 1971 when he declared it to be one of many world’s greatest diving websites. Part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System and a UNESCO World Heritage Website, the Gap exists inside the Lighthouse Reef roughly forty miles offshore. Cousteau’s grandson Fabien lately returned to the Gap with Sir Richard Branson and a workforce of explorers to seize many excessive-high quality pictures and movies of the Gap’s enigmatic traits by way of a 3-individual Aquatica Submarine (the Stingray 500), a Roatan Institute of Deepsea Exploration Submarine (the Idabel), and sonar know-how offered by Kongsberg Mesotoech. The expedition, with Aquatica’s Chief Pilot and Oceanographer, Erika Bergman on the helm, was broadcast stay on the Discovery Channel on December 2, 2018.

Photograph of Stingray from The IdabelAquatica Submarines

At roughly 1,050 ft extensive and four hundred ft deep, two Boeing 747s might simply match inside the Nice Blue Gap. The Gap is a good way to see Caribbean Reef Sharks, however not a lot different life, as mild shortly disappears as divers descend into the marine sinkhole. It’s because the Gap is a submerged cave that was flooded by rising sea ranges throughout the newest deglaciation between 15 and one hundred fifty,000 years in the past. Seawater crammed the collapse 4 discrete steps, resulting in the formation of “terraces” and stalactites whose mineral composition can reveal details about the Earth’s current previous throughout this era.

Based on Bergman, “What [the Great Blue Hole] tells us is that sea degree rise just isn’t a gradual course of. We rigorously measured the terraces and layers constructed up within the gap and we will see that sea degree rise can occur dramatically … Because the final glacial most, which ended about 14,000 years in the past, sea degree has risen as much as one hundred ft in a single century, adopted by a settled interval lasting a number of thousand years.

Stalactites from Belize’s Nice Blue Gap coated in marine life.Aquatica Submarines

Dissolved oxygen measurements of the Nice Blue Gap’s deepest one hundred ft (roughly 300 ft under sea degree) are utterly devoid of oxygen (and odor of rotten eggs because of the excessive ranges of hydrogen sulfide on this a part of the Gap). The underside of the seafloor is suffering from lifeless conches, a kind of huge sea snail, in addition to plastic bottles. Moreover, ocean currents are steadily filling the Gap with sand – a course of that may proceed for years to return.

“A few of the targets we have been notably serious about learning intimately have been the stalactite caverns from one hundred thirty ft to one hundred sixty ft deep, shaped again when sea degree was 500 ft decrease, and this was a dry cave … We additionally noticed the calcium carbonate layer at 290 ft the place an incredible coral reef grew in what was then shallow Caribbean waters,” says Bergman, “Among the many rocky outcrops and fallen ledges plunged within the silt across the circumference of the Gap, there was additionally a concentric circle of sand … As soon as one thing falls within the Gap it may possibly’t be washed away in deep sea currents, so something down there stays put as waterfalls of sand slowly fill within the Gap.”

The Stingray 500 Submarine on the sting of Lighthouse ReefAquatica Submarines

Finally, these knowledge and findings can be shared with the Belizean Authorities and a documentary in regards to the 22 dives that the workforce carried out from November 27 to December thirteen, 2018 might be debuting in Spring 2019.

Our biggest pleasure is seeing the look on peoples faces as they descend beneath the floor of the water for the primary time to see the life that abounds simply outdoors our every day routine,” says Bergman, “Exploration modifications an individual’s perspective, and as an organization we intend to maintain the spirit of exploration alive with our mission of ‘Taking the World Underwater.’ 

Expedition Crew with the Stingray 500 and Sir Richard BransonAquatica Submarines