On December 2, 2018, viewers from around the world watched live as Sir Richard Branson, the legendary British entrepreneur and adventurer, and a team of scientists explored the depths of the Belize Blue Hole aboard a high-tech submarine equipped with advanced underwater cameras and military-grade sonar.
The Discovery Channel broadcast assembled a team of scientists and adventurers to attempt a daring expedition to map and document the entirety of the Belize Blue Hole, the world’s largest sinkhole. Measuring more than 1,000 feet (320 meters) across and 400 feet (124 meters) deep, the Belize Blue Hole is big enough to hold two Boeing 747 airliners with plenty of room to spare.
The Belize Blue Hole came to the world’s attention in 1971 when oceanographer Jacques Cousteau visited and filmed at the site as part of his hit television show, “The Undersea Adventures of Jacques Cousteau.” But due to limitations in underwater camera technology and the inability of standard scuba diving gear to go deeper than 60 meters, much of the Belize Blue Hole has previously been impossible to reach.
This year’s historic scientific team used advanced vehicles built by Aquatica Submarines and the Roatan Institute of Deepsea Exploration (RIDE) to descend to the bottom of the Belize Blue Hole for the first time. Able to stay submerged up to 12 hours at a time, the vehicles were used to navigate the twisting passages that lie at the bottom of the Belize Blue Hole. The site was initially a cave on dry land that formed several million years ago but became submerged at the end of the last great Ice Age.
Joining the expedition was Fabien Cousteau, Jacques Cousteau’s eldest grandson. Fabien has broken several of his grandfather’s diving records and is an accomplished oceanographer in his own right. Fabien decided to join the 2018 expedition partly as a homage to his legendary grandfather who designed the underwater cameras that captured the first underwater images of the Belize Blue Hole.
Interested in visiting Belize and diving the reef yourself? One of the finest places to stay is Belizean Dreams, an award-winning resort located in the picturesque village of Hopkins on the Caribbean coast of Belize. Belizean Dreams offers a host of diving tours to the Belize Blue Hole as well as other top dive sites on the reef. The resort also organizes tours to all of the most popular attractions on the mainland, including hiking, birdwatching, and visiting ancient Maya ruins.