Into Belize’s Great Blue Hole
In 1971, the famous French marine biologist and explorer Jacques Cousteau put Belize in the world’s spotlight when he declared that the Belize Blue Hole, a mysterious natural phenomenon located some 40 miles (65 km) off the mainland, was one of the best dive sites in the world. More than 40 years later, his grandson Fabien is set to complete Jacques’s work by using a next-generation submarine to map the bottom of the Belize Blue Hole.
Fabien Cousteau will be in Belize as part of a team that includes Sir Richard Branson, the iconic British entrepreneur, and scientists from the Roatan Institute of Deep Sea Exploration (RIDE). The team’s mission is to finish what Jacques started, using special underwater video cameras and military-grade sonar to completely map the underwater cave systems of the Belize Blue Hole.
The team will be using both piloted submarines and remotely operated submersible vehicles provided by Aquatica Submarines, a Canadian manufacturer of specialized underwater vehicles. The CEO of Aquatica, Harvey Flemming, has announced that he will personally operate one of the company’s submarines as they participate in this unique expedition. The original 1971 visit by Jacques Cousteau and his team aboard the Calypso did use a small submarine to explore the Belize Blue Hole but were hampered by the available technology at the time.
Fabien Cousteau learned how to dive when he was just four years old, taught by the expert himself, his grandfather Jacques. In 2014, Fabien broke his grandfather’s previous record of 30 days spent underwater by spending 31 days filming and performing research while aboard the Aquarius, an underwater laboratory off the coast of Florida. Fabien hopes that advancements in technology will permit a more thorough mapping of the Belize Blue Hole.
The goal of the mission is to film and map the Belize Blue Hole as well as conduct several scientific research projects. The team will examine the sediment at the bottom, measure dissolved gases, and collect as much data as possible about the structure and natural history of the world-famous dive site.
If you’re interested in exploring the Belize reef for yourself, be sure to contact Barefoot Rentals and Services. Much more than just a car rental company, Barefoot offers guided tours to all of the top attractions in the country, including expeditions to the reef, hiking in nature parks like the Cockscomb Basin Wilderness Sanctuary, and visits to ancient Maya cities such as Xunantunich, Cahal Pech, and Tikal (Tikal is located just across the border in Guatemala).