Mysterious Blue Spot Found Off Florida’s Gulf Coast
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that “blue holes and caverns are scattered across Florida's Gulf continental shelf" and host a wide variety of plants and animals. The organization has likened blue holes to “an oasis in an otherwise barren seafloor” (4). However, little is known about the submerged sinkholes due to a lack of accessibility— most openings are too narrow for subs to enter.
In 2019, a blue hole 30 miles away from Sarasota named “Amberjack Hole” was explored by a team of scientists from Florida Atlantic University (FAU), Georgia Tech, the U.S. Geological Society and the Mote Marine Laboratory. The Amberjack Hole is 113 feet below the surface and 350 feet deep. This expedition was the most detailed investigation as the team deployed divers and a “benthic lander” holding multiple scientific instruments (3). At the rim of the blue hole, the team has documented signs of life. They have also found two dead smalltooth sawfish, which are an endangered species, at the bottom of the hole. Along with water and sediment samples, the scientists have also collected the male’s remains for study (2).
NOAA is sending scientists on a year-long expedition in August to the Gulf Coast in order to explore an odd blue hole on the ocean floor of the coast of Florida dubbed “the Green Banana.” It is 155 feet below the surface, 425 feet deep and shaped like a hourglass (1). The objectives of this expedition are to find out if there is a connection between the holes and Florida’s groundwater; if the Green Banana is secreting nutrients affecting the primary production; discover if the holes contain new species of microbes; and decide if Amberjack should be a protected site (4).
The NOAA reported that, "The seawater chemistry in the holes is unique and appears to interact with groundwater [...] Scientists are hoping to learn [...] whether these submersed sinkholes are connected to Florida's groundwater”(3).
1. Lewis, S. (2020, July 24). Mysterious deep "blue hole" off Florida's coast sparks search for signs of life. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/blue-hole-florida-coast-search-signs-of-life/
2. Murphy, H. (2020, July 25). Why Everyone's Talking About the 'Green Banana' Off Florida's Coast. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/25/science/blue-hole-florida-ocean.html
3. Price, M. (2020, July 20). Mysterious 450-foot 'blue hole' off Florida has researchers looking for signs of life. Retrieved from https://phys.org/news/2020-07-mysterious-foot-blue-hole-florida.html
4. US Department of Commerce, N. (2020, July 15). Scientists Embark on Journey to the "Deep" to Explore Blue Holes. Retrieved from https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/20blue-holes/welcome.html