Into Belize‘s Great Blue Hole: Richard Branson and Fabien Cousteau reveal expedition to map the world‘s largest sinkhole for the first time

In 1971, famed French diver-explorer Jacques Cousteau brought his research vessel Calypso 43 miles off the coast of Belize to explore the wondrous 1,000ft long sinkhole, the Blue Hole.

Cousteau‘s team had discovered that the Blue Hole, the largest sea sinkhole in the world and one of Belize‘s main tourist attractions, was in fact a submerged cave that had formed over a period of tens of thousands of year.

Now, almost 50 years later, Cousteau‘s grandson Fabien is returning to the site, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, alongside Richard Branson and a team of researchers to learn more about the mysterious sinkhole.

The Blue Hole is about 400 feet deep, and while divers have reached the bottom previously, the total darkness and the difficult conditions limited their ability to collect scientific data

‘[My grandfather] brought Calypso into the Blue Hole and sent divers and his submersible, but it was 1960s technology,‘ Fabien said.

Now a team of divers and scientists will for the first time do a 3D scan of the tourist site, including a sonar scan of the interior using military-grade technology.

The hope is that the information will shed more light on how climate change has impacted the planet over the course of millenia.

The Blue Hole is about 400 feet deep, and while divers have reached the bottom, the total darkness and the difficult conditions limited their ability to collect scientific data.

‘There‘s a lot of discoveries left to be had there, including finding the sediment, looking at the variations in the walls, the oxygen and CO2 content… there‘s a whole laundry list of things that we are going to be doing there that haven‘t been done,‘ Fabien said.

‘Geologically speaking, it‘s a really cool formation,‘ Fabien Cousteau (left) told DailyMail. He will be joined on the expedition by Richard Branson

The expedition will include the deployment of two three-man submersible submarines, which will enable Cousteau and Branson, who is a passionate ocean conservationist, to spend hours inside the Blue Hole.

There will also be two large floating vessels to provide research and logistical support.

During the expedition, there will be a livestreamed event where Branson and Cousteau will broadcast to millions from the bottom of the Blue Hole.

Submersibles from Aquatica will enable the divers to spend more time at the bottom of the Blue Hole

The explorers will also be keen on collecting data that could provide insight into the existence and demise of ancient Mayan civilization.

Archaeologists say the Blue Hole could hold clues that reinforce scientists‘ suspicions that the downfall of the Maya could be attributed to climate disasters.

But exploring the site comes with its own unique set of challenges for the divers, who will have to brave tough conditions.

‘That‘s a very deep hole,‘ Cousteau said. ‘You can‘t go that deep without very specialized equipment.

The submersibles will enable the divers to spend more time at the bottom of the Blue Hole.

The submersibles were manufactured by Aquatica, a Canadian company.

The company‘s founder, Harvey Flemming, will also lead the expedition alongside Cousteau and Branson.

The expedition will set out for Belize in mid-to-late December.

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