And an invitation for those intrepid aquatic adventurers to come dry off and relax at The Lodge at Chaa Creek
Belize’ Great Blue Hole made worldwide news back in the 1971 when Jacques Cousteau anchored his research vessel RV Calypso on its rim and made the first extensive dives of what he went on to classify as one of the top five dive spots on the planet.
Now, almost 50 years later, Belize’s Great Blue Hole is back in the news, thanks to Jacques’ grandson Fabien Cousteau, and an intrepid crew of celebrity adventurers that includes Richard Branson.
Why is this such exciting news at Chaa Creek, some 70 miles inland and more famous for being smack in the middle of the ancient Maya heartland? Stay tuned…
But for now, the news:
Branson, celebrity businessman, philanthropist, founder of the Virgin Group of companies and co-founder of Ocean Unite, earlier announced that he was partnering with filmmaker and conservationist Cousteau, as well as Harvey Flemming, founding president of Canadian company Aquatica Submarines, and a team of scientists, filmmakers and explorers to send two submersibles to the bottom of the Great Blue Hole.
One of the subs is slated to be an Aquatica Stingray, a highly advanced vessel that will allow Flemming and the team to collect new data and never-before-seen footage and images while completing the first ever complete sonar-scan of the hole’s interior.
As an added bonus, Forbes magazine reports that Branson and Fabien Cousteau will be livestreaming to a global online audience from the bottom of the Blue Hole.
And with powerful light kits and military grade sonar so strong that researchers can tell if a coin on the Hole’s floor is facing heads or tails, who knows what discoveries await?
As team leader Flemming said from Aquatica’s base in Vancouver, British Columbia,
“We’re really excited to see what we’ll see. We don’t really know for sure. Maybe a body, who knows? It is totally open for discovery.
“It’s a wildcard…I’m excited to get there and jump in and see what it is all about.”
A giant marine sinkhole 1,043 feet in diameter and 407 feet deep, situated some 70km off Belize’s Caribbean coast near Lighthouse Reef, the Great Blue Hole can be seen from space and has attracted researchers and recreational divers for years.
More recently, researchers have used sedimentary and other evidence to help solve one of history’s greatest mysteries – how and why the highly advanced, vast ancient Maya civilisation suddenly disappeared.
As we reported right here last year, a team from Rice and Louisiana State Universities used data collected from sedimentary layers and other clues to identify the time and duration of a long severe drought that could have contributed to the collapse of the Maya Empire.
Their research jibes with that of University of Illinois researchers, who identified a water temple complex at Belize’s Cara Blanca site where it looks like a “drought cult” had been making increasingly desperate sacrifices to the rain god Chaak and other deities – a scenario University of California researcher Holly Moyes agrees with.
With huge cities using intricate irrigation and water catchment systems to support populations far exceeding those of present day Belize, a long draught would have been catastrophic. Imagine New York, London or Paris absolutely running out of water…and for years…
Here at Chaa Creek we have a special interest and love for both the environment and Belize’s ancient Maya heritage, which isn’t hard to understand when you consider we’re surrounded by so much natural beauty and a wealth of ancient Maya temples, cities, ceremonial caves and other artefacts of this amazing civilisation.
With the potential to shed light on the effects of climate change, Belize’s natural and cultural history, and perhaps discover things we haven’t even thought of, this latest Great Blue Hole Adventure has captured our imaginations – in a big way.
With the diving slated to begin before the new year, we’re breathlessly awaiting, and will keep you updated here.
If you happen to be reading this, Messrs Branson, Cousteau, Flemming and team, please accept our invitation to come by and relax inland after your aquatic adventures. We’d be happy to put you up in style in exchange for hearing all about what has to be one of the coolest underwater adventures since 20000 Leagues Under The Sea – and this one’s real!