At the bottom of the ocean skulks some of the world’s most weird and wonderful creatures. From sharks that look straight out of Jurassic Park, to vampire squid and viperfish, there is undoubtedly much more to be discovered within the 80 percent of unexplored ocean on our planet. Now, a group of scientists are set to explore a massive 130-meter (425-foot) blue hole that goes straight into the ocean floor.
Sitting just off the coast of Florida, the blue hole named Green Banana is to be explored as part of an ongoing 3-year expedition to discover what lies in the pits of Florida’s Gulf continental shelf. These deep, abyssal sinkholes are teeming with novel microscopic life that gives researchers insight into the ecosystems of the ocean floor and beyond.
Scientists from Florida Atlantic University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Mote Marine Laboratory, and the US Geological Society will enter the sinkhole along with monitoring equipment to survey the entire area – all the way to the bottom, 130 meters below sea level.
The dive, due to take part next month, is part of a series of dives planned over 2020-2021 that aim to understand the ecosystems of blue holes and whether Green Banana is connected to Florida’s groundwater system. Back in May 2019, divers entered the Amberjack Hole off Sarasota, Florida to collect water samples and found high levels of radon and radium – markers for the presence of groundwater – and hope the mission into Green Banana will further illuminate how it might connect the Floridian Aquifer to the Gulf of Mexico.
Amongst these markers, the divers found two deceased smalltooth sawfish at the bottom of the Amberjack Hole. The larger of the two measured an incredible 3.7 meters (12 feet) long, and was recovered for a necropsy. DNA from the native microbes in the water samples was extracted, and combined with data from the dives planned in August and next year, the team hopes to more accurately map the microbiome of these oceanic sinkholes.
Check out the video of the bottom of the Amberjack Hole below.
NOAA, one of the primary funders for this expedition, explains: “Blue holes are diverse biological communities full of marine life, including corals, sponges, mollusks, sea turtles, sharks, and more. The seawater chemistry in the holes is unique and appears to interact with groundwater and possibly aquifer layers.”