In 1971, the legendary French marine biologist Jacques Cousteau and his ship the Calypso sailed to Belize, then a remote British colony, in order to explore the reef, the second-largest on the planet. Cousteau used video cameras and special underwater cameras that his team developed to provide the first modern records of the Belize Blue Hole. After plumbing its mysterious depths, Cousteau declared to Belize Blue Hole to be one of his top 10 favorite dive sites in the world.
Now, nearly 50 years later, Jacques's grandson Fabien, himself an experienced diver, will be leading an expedition to map the depths of the Belize Blue Hole. Using next-generation submarines and remotely piloted underwater vehicles built by Aquatica, a Canadian company, Fabien Cousteau and his team will use advanced military-grade sonar and high-resolution underwater cameras to document and map the entirety of the Belize Blue Hole.
Other members of the expedition include scientists from the Roatan Institute of Deep Sea Exploration (RIDE) and the British entrepreneur and CEO of the Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson. Beyond completing the mapping expedition first begun by Jacques Cousteau, the team will also be recording scientific data such as water quality and investigating an alleged low-oxygen layer at the bottom of the Belize Blue Hole which may provide key environmental data about changes in the climate that led to the collapse of the ancient Maya civilization around the year 900 AD.
The Belize Blue Hole was originally a vast cave system on dry land complete with massive stalactites and stalagmites. Around 100,000 years ago, rising sea waters caused the cave to be flooded. Today, the Belize Blue Hole is located near Lighthouse Reef some 40 miles (70 km) off the coast of Belize City. The Belize Blue Hole is easily visible from space and measures approximately 1,000 feet (300 meters) across and 400 feet (120 meters) deep. Very little light penetrates the depths of the Belize Blue Hole, and scientists will be taking samples to determine if any microscopic life exists in the inky depths.
If you'd like to learn more about the Belize Blue Hole, visit ancient Maya ruins, or explore the many natural attractions in Belize, consider staying at Cahal Pech Village Resort in San Ignacio. Offering visitors lovely thatched roof cabanas and a gourmet restaurant with stunning views of the nearby Belize River Valley, Cahal Pech organizes tours to all of the top destinations in the country.