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Scientists look for signs of life in giant 'blue hole' off Florida

Scientists look for signs of life in giant 'blue hole' off Florida

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Scientists look for signs of life in giant 'blue hole' off Florida

A diver's view looking up to the opening of Amberjack Hole, which has been called an "oasis in an otherwise barren seafloor."

Tales of the ocean swallowing places are as ancient as the myth of Atlantis, but there is an element of truth in the science, according to an NOAA-backed expedition set for Florida's Gulf Coast.

The ocean does open up and consume areas of sea floor.

However, these are basically sinkholes, similar to those that gobble suburban homes in Florida, NOAA says.

When it happens in the ocean, it's called a "blue hole" and what's inside them is largely a mystery, NOAA reports.

Scientists have no idea how many blue holes exist or where they are most likely to be found, NOAA says.

Even something as simple as getting into them is tough, experts say.

"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," NOAA writes.

The yearlong expedition begins in August and will explore a 425-feet-deep blue hole known as Green Banana, that is 155 feet below the surface, NOAA says. The team will include scientists from Mote Marine Laboratory, Florida Atlantic University, Georgia Institute of Technology and the U.S. Geological Society, NOAA says.

"Blue holes and caverns are "scattered across Florida's Gulf continental shelf" and most are known for hosting "a high diversity of abundance of plants and animals," NOAA reports.

A blue hole 30 miles off Sarasota (known as Amberjack Hole) was explored in 2019. The team found it to be an "oasis in an otherwise barren seafloor." That hole is 113 feet below the surface and was found to be 350 feet deep, NOAA says.

Among the things discovered at the bottom: Two intact — but dead — smalltooth sawfish, an endangered species, NOAA says. One of the sharks, a 12-footlong male, was collected for study, NOAA reports.

"Blue holes are diverse biological communities full of marine life," NOAA said.

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