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 - back in 1971 by legendary ocean expert Jacques Cousteau himself. But what mysteries lie at the greatest depth of this ancient sink hole that is millions of years old?
Fabien Cousteau, the grandson of Jacques, is attempting to finally answer that question in a Discovery Channel (BT TV 322/376 HD) mission to the bottom of the Blue Hole alongside explorer and entrepreneur Richard Branson.
1. Can you give us any predictions for what you expect to find at the bottom of the Great Blue Hole?
I'll quote my grandfather: 'If I knew what we were going to find I wouldn't go there'… The essence of exploration is the unknown and going to see what's out there. What drives me is my curiosity to find out.
Based on findings around Central America and the Meso-American reef there very well could be evidence in the Blue Hole pointing to Mayan culture, new species of sea life, and climate change evidence.
2. What do you expect the biggest challenges to be?
Expeditions are full of surprises and difficulties. Anything from technical problems to weather related issues can throw off a perfectly orchestrated plan. Just deploying the submersibles can easily be interrupted by high winds which would make it too dangerous to launch them.
3. How have your Grandfather’s explorations helped you in preparing for this expedition and what would he think of it?
In 1970 My grandfather and his team on Calypso paved the way to understanding how special the Blue Hole is. This fundamental base of knowledge gives us a better understanding of what we need to prepare for and what science we can build on.
4. How can this expedition into the Great Blue help raise awareness about environmental issues?
The Great Blue Hole, just like the rest of the ocean, can tell us a great deal about our impact on it. the geologic formations inside the Blue Hole will give us a good roadmap of climactic changes in history. I suspect we might also see signs of human impact at the bottom. Either way, sharing the beauty and fragility of our ocean world is paramount to impassioning the public.
5. What kind of new technology will you use to capture footage that surpasses that from the first expedition?
Live broadcast, ROV cave footage, 4k & 8k video, acoustic 3D mapping are just some of the ways we will be able to bring back images well beyond the filming technology from 1970.
6. Do you have future plans to explore other blue holes, such as the Dean's Blue Hole in the Bahamas or the Dragon Hole in the South China Sea?
The possibility is always there to explore other blue holes since they are so unique and can uncover exciting discoveries.
7. What is the most amazingly ridiculous myth about the ocean or Blue Holes you can recall?
The most prolific circle around sea monsters and aliens. Legends and myths are fascinating and tell us a lot about the human mind. That said, many fantastical stories are based on some grain of fact: dragon story based on dinosaur fossils, a unicorn story based on a narwhal tusk, or the kraken based on a squid carcass…
The Blue Hole is no exception: a giant sea serpent god lives there, it’s a doorway to the underworld, its an alien hideout… These are just some of the legends surrounding the Belize Blue Hole. Either science, or science fiction, we aim to find out exactly what’s in there once and for all.
How to watch Discovery Live: Into the Blue Hole?
Discovery Live: Into the Blue Hole airs on Wednesday, December 5th at 11pm.
Watch Discovery Channel on BT TV 322/376 HD.