Aquatica Submarines and Richard Branson successfully dive the Belize Blue Hole
by Olivia Michel
Following the October 2018 launch of its NGO, Aquatica Foundation, Canadian company Aquatica Submarines announced at the beginning of 2019 that they had safely and successfully completed their Belize Blue Hole expedition. Together with marine conservation advocate Richard Branson and explorer Fabien Cousteau, Aquatica’s chief pilot Erika Bergman conducted over 20 dives to the site in Belize’s Lighthouse Reef between November and December 2018.
The team headed down the Blue Hole on board Aquatica’s Stingray 500 submarine and the Idabel submarine produced by the Roatan Institute of Deepsea Exploration. Descending approximately 130 metres, the team was able to create the first ever high-resolution, 3D sonar map of the previously uncharted Blue Hole. A two-hour virtual tour of the sinkhole was also broadcast during one of the dives via the Discovery Channel, allowing this geographical wonder to be viewed around the globe. This footage, together with the data collected during the dives, now provides the most extensive and up-to-date insight into this natural marine phenomenon. Located 65 kilometres from the shores of Belize City and stretching more than 300 metres across in diameter, the UNESCO-certified Blue Hole is considered one of the top dive sites in the world.
Speaking on the accomplishments of the dive, Aquatica’s president Harvey Flemming commented that “the expedition’s successes really means that we were able to show the magic of the Blue Hole to the world”. Flemming added that this exploration serves as a means to “reinforce the messages of all the expedition members that we must continue to work diligently to conserve our world’s oceans for future generations”.
Aquatica Foundation was the main non-profit organisation leading the excursion, together with a number of other charities including Ocean Unite, Belize Audubon Society And the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Centre. To continue its ocean conservation and awareness work, the foundation has already organised another voyage in summer 2019 to the reefs of the British Virgin Islands.
The accomplishments of the Blue Hole dive are celebrated ahead of an upcoming documentary about the expedition which will be released in late spring 2019.