Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Scientists to Explore Mysterious Blue Hole off Florida

Scientists to Explore Mysterious Blue Hole off Florida
Green Banana will be explored using the same techniques developed for the Amberjack Hole, seen here from a diver's view in 2019. Mote Marine Laboratory

Scientists are rushing to Florida's Gulf Coast to explore a mysterious blue hole located 425 feet deep on the ocean floor.

The mysterious hole, called the Green Banana by scientists, is 155 feet below the surface of the water and is similar to a sink hole on land, according to scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as ABC News reported.

In a statement, NOAA explained why blue holes are both perplexing and important:

"Little is known about blue holes due to their lack of accessibility and unknown distribution and abundance. The opening of a blue hole can be several hundred feet underwater, and for many holes, the opening is too small for an automated submersible. In fact, the first reports of blue holes did not come from scientists or researchers, but actually came from fishermen and recreational divers."

This sinkhole, which extends nearly 300 feet, is giving researchers from NOAA a chance to explore what purpose these holes serve and what effect they have on the ecosystem, according to Popular Mechanics.

NOAA said that there are many underwater sinkholes, springs and caverns scattered across Florida's Gulf continental shelf, but they have no idea how many there are or where to find them, as CBS News reported. Every hole differs in size, shape and depth, and scientists believe that most host a diverse range of plants and animals.

The year-long expedition of Green Banana will start in August, NOAA said. The team will include scientists from Mote Marine Laboratory, Florida Atlantic University, Georgia Institute of Technology and the U.S. Geological Society, as Phys.org reported.

According to researchers at Mote Marine Laboratory, the holes likely formed roughly 8,000 to 12,000 years ago, when the Florida coastline was about 100 miles further offshore from where it is now due to lower sea levels, as CBS News reported. While there is no clear discovery date, local fishermen and divers have wondered about the mysterious holes for decades.

"It was more like word of mouth ... these divers would go out and try to find it, and they had plenty of days where they didn't find anything and other days where, 'Eureka! There's a hole!'" researcher Emily Hall, a staff scientist and program manager at Mote Marine Laboratory, told CBS News.

The holes appear to host diverse biological communities full of marine life, including corals, sponges, mollusks, sea turtles and sharks. They also discovered two dead but intact smalltooth sawfish, an endangered species, at the bottom of the hole, according to NOAA. So far, NOAA scientists have collected 17 water samples from the area surrounding the hole along with four sediment samples, according to ABC News.

The researchers are hoping to see if the blue hole is secreting nutrients or harbors microenvironments or new species of microbes. They will also examine whether or not the blue holes are related to Florida's groundwater, or if the two affect each other in any way, and how the blue holes affect the global carbon cycle, according to CBS News.

Planning for the August expedition is remarkably complicated. Green Banana is 20 percent deeper than previously explored blue holes. "The configuration of the hole is somewhat hourglass shaped, creating new challenges for the lander deployment and water sampling," NOAA said, as Popular Mechanics reported.

The Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, New York, a polluted nearly 2 mile-long waterway that is an EPA Superfund site. Jonathan Macagba / Moment / Getty Images

Thousands of Superfund sites exist around the U.S., with toxic substances left open, mismanaged and dumped. Despite the high levels of toxicity at these sites, nearly 21 million people live within a mile of one of them, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The National Weather Service station in Chatham, Massachusetts, near the edge of a cliff at the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. Bryce Williams / National Weather Service in Boston / Norton

A weather research station on a bluff overlooking the sea is closing down because of the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
Amsterdam is one of the Netherlands' cities which already has "milieuzones," where some types of vehicles are banned. Unsplash / jennieramida

By Douglas Broom

  • If online deliveries continue with fossil-fuel trucks, emissions will increase by a third.
  • So cities in the Netherlands will allow only emission-free delivery vehicles after 2025.
  • The government is giving delivery firms cash help to buy or lease electric vehicles.
  • The bans will save 1 megaton of CO2 every year by 2030.

Cities in the Netherlands want to make their air cleaner by banning fossil fuel delivery vehicles from urban areas from 2025.

Read More Show Less
Protestors stage a demonstration against fracking in California on May 30, 2013 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

A bill that would have banned fracking in California died in committee Tuesday.

Read More Show Less

By Brett Wilkins

As world leaders prepare for this November's United Nations Climate Conference in Scotland, a new report from the Cambridge Sustainability Commission reveals that the world's wealthiest 5% were responsible for well over a third of all global emissions growth between 1990 and 2015.

Read More Show Less