Scientists exploring mysterious 'blue holes' off Florida's Gulf Coast

Katie Ramirez
July 27, 2020

Scientists are flocking to Florida's Gulf Coast for a glimpse of a mysterious 425-feet-deep "blue hole" on the ocean floor. Little is acknowledged about these holes, which are comparable to sink holes on land and are "scattered throughout Florida's Gulf continental shelf" but very hard to access, in accordance to the Nationwide Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "The blue holes are diverse biological communities are teeming with marine life, including corals, sponges, molluscs, sea turtles and sharks", explains the organization. They also discovered two dead but intact smalltooth sawfish, an endangered species, at the bottom of the hole.

The organisation's year-long expedition begins in August and will explore a 130-metre deep blue hole known as Green Banana, that is about 50 metres below the surface, NOAA says.

According to The Evening Standards, Named the "Green Banana", the hole lies about almost 50 meters beneath the surface of the sea and is thought to be among 20 on Florida's coastal continental shelf.

Scientists affiliated with the NOAA have already managed to collect 17 different samples of water from the site that surrounds the hole.

The next goal is the exploration of another, significantly smaller, a hole of this kind, with an edge of 34 meters below the surface of the ocean, which extends approximately 72 meters below it. "The chemistry of seawater in the holes is unique and seems to interact with the aquifers and possibly with the layers of the aquifers".

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Last year, a team of scientists explored one blue hole, called "Amberjack Hole", about 30 miles off Sarasota's shoreline.

NOAA says little is known about blue holes due to their lack of accessibility and unknown distribution and abundance.

Blue holes are massive undersea sinkholes that are considered hotspots of microbial biodiversity. One of the animals was subsequently recovered to undergo a necropsy. After deploying divers and more than 600 pounds of equipment into Amberjack Hole, the team found carbon, nutrients and microscopic life lurking inside.

They're also looking to see if a particular blue hole is secreting nutrients or harbors microenvironments or new species of microbes. The NOAA says the hole's hourglass shape will pose a challenge to sampling.

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