Jacques Cousteau drew attention to blue holes, or submerged caves, when he sailed his research ship Calypso into Belize to chart the depth of the “Great Blue Hole.” Surprisingly, blue holes have garnered little attention aside from tourism until recent years. However, now gaining the spotlight of popular science magazines like National Geographic, the recent research conducted in the deeper anoxic waters of blue holes have gained a wider audience. The findings, which include ancient life forms, preserved fossils, and information about water levels through the distant past, expand our expectations about life in the universe.
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Blue holes are ancient, flooded caves. To date, over one thousand blue holes have been discovered both inland and in shallow waters from Australia to Egypt to Belize. These water-filled cylinders, like sink holes, are portals to vast caverns, forests of stalactites and stalagmites, hundreds of feet of sheer drop leading to winding tunnels that can branch out for miles.
In the Bahamas, Dean’s Blue Hole drops 663 feet. In Belize, the Great Blue Hole’s 1,000 foot diameter is guarded by a thin ring of coral called Lighthouse Reef. Sites around the world serve as both a playground for professional divers and a sheltered preserve for scientists.
Inland blue holes host troves of fossils and bacteria that are preserved in stratified water. Rain serves as a buffer between oxygen on the surface and the dense salt water below that preserves both fossils and organic life.
Navigating their way through red clouds of poisonous hydrogen sulfide, divers have discovered the bones of ancient terrestrial crocodiles, transparent shrimp, and the tide marks of bygone ice ages. Ultimately, studying life in an oxygen-free zone means a better understand of early earth, of distant planets, of life we’ve yet to discover.
The music for this segment comes from Mice Parade.