Belize’s Great Blue Hole is mysterious and thrilling

The Great Blue Hole in Belize was declared by Jacques Cousteau to be one of the top five dive sites in the world. Discovery Channel referred to it as one of the ten most amazing places on earth. The thrill of the deep and the mystery of what lies so far below the waves draws thousands of adventure seekers each year. It is a world that was created 153,000 years ago by glaciers when the sea level was much lower than it is today. Formed due to limestone buildup, its development actually took place in four stages, many years apart. The stalactites are magnificent and a ring of caves and tunnels lines the sinkhole at a depth of 130 feet. This creates a very unique environment for divers to explore. Occasionally, sharks patrol the depths, along with some fish species, but life is sparse this far from the sunlight. Without coral, sponges and vegetation, there is little to support an abundance of life. Venturing this far below the surface is not without risks. Nitrogen narcosis, a side effect of the buildup of nitrogen gas in a scuba diver’s blood, occurs much more frequently and rapidly at greater depths and it can lead to extreme disorientation. Any lapse in judgment in this world will have serious and immediate consequences. A diver will also consume air at a much faster rate due to the higher pressure. Because two safety stops are needed on the ascent to expel nitrogen and avoid the bends, air consumption must be carefully planned. Divers know that they can only stay 8 minutes in this beautiful place. Any miscalculation will cost them precious air and place them at serious risk. Yet, with proper planning and training, these dives can be done safely, as long as divers do not ignore any of the safety rules. Only divers with advanced training are allowed to enter the Great Blue Hole. They rely on each other in the case of equipment malfunction and they have practiced the drills many times. Extra air tanks are suspended below the boat in case the divers do not have enough air left for their final safety stop. Working together, they minimize the risks. An adventure into the Great Blue Hole is not for the faint of heart, but the allure of the deep is powerful and the intrigue and thrill easily outweigh the perils. The Great Blue Hole is like a beckon for scuba divers that they are powerless to ignore. This is a world that only the privileged few can experience.

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