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Diving the Blue Holes of Abaco: The Cascade Room

August 6th, 2010

NatGeoBHIn January, Serenity Point published “Diving the Blue Holes of Abaco” about the fossil discovery in 2004 that led National Geographic to fund an exploration of Abaco’s blue holes and caves. Now the August 2010 issue of National Geographic reveals their most recent research and photography from their exploration.

The numerous caves and sinkholes in the Bahamas, and especially on Abaco, occasionally reach depths of 300 feet, representing the lowest sea level from the Pleistocene Ice Age. They yield a scientific trove that may even shed light on life before this time. Yet they are extremely dangerous to explore due to the depths.

The PHOTO OF THE MONTH by Wes C. Skiles, from the August 2010 story “Bahamas Caves.”

201010720_lead-cave2

The Cascade Room, some 80 feet beneath the surface, leads divers deeper into Dan's Cave on Abaco Island.

On Abaco alone, there are at least 17 caves and blue holes that the Bahamian Government seeks to protect.

Dan’s cave
Ralph’s Cave
Nancy’s Cave
Sawmill Sink
Reel Breaker Blue Hole
Starfish Blue Hole 1
Starfish Blue Hole 2
Glen’s Blue Hole North
Glen’s Blue Hole South
Quarry Blue Hole
Crossing Rocks Blue Hole
Little Vortex Blue Hole
Canal Blue Hole
Unfu-fu Blue Hole
Nowhere Blue Hole
Stingray Blue Hole
Stumble Blue Hole

To get a sense of diving a Blue Hole, watch Marc Laukien’s 16 minute video of cave diving in Dan’s Cave and Ralph’s Cave, Abaco, Bahamas.

The Crystal Caves of Abaco from Marc Laukien on Vimeo.

You can also watch World champion freediver Guillaume Nery make a special dive at Dean’s Blue Hole, the deepest blue hole in the world filmed entirely on breath hold by the french champion Julie Gautier.

Related Articles:

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Diving the Blue Holes of Abaco

January 5th, 2010

People the world over come to Abaco (The Bahamas) to swim, snorkel and dive in Ababo’s Blue Holes. Now the beauty and tranquility that has drawn tourists to these spots for years have captured the attention of the scientific community.

Dive06-blue1
(Photo credit: Bahamas Tourism)

A fossil discovery in 2004 has led to National Geographic funding an exploration of Abaco’s blue holes and caves.

Blue Hole

The unusual discovery of well-preserved fossils in a water-filled sinkhole called a blue hole revealed the bones of landlubbing crocodiles and tortoises that did not survive human encroachment, said David Steadman, a UF ornithologist, in Science Daily.

The finding of the skeletons prove that animals never known to man lived in Abaco.

The expert divers who initially discovered the fossils at the sinkhole of Sawmill Sink in South Abaco, Brian Kakuk and Nancy Albury, as well as others from the Antiquities, Monuments & Museums Corporation (AAMC) are now part of the National Geographic research team.

National Geographic is planning a television show on the holes and discoveries (scheduled for the summer of 2010), plus magazine articles and school materials.

Blue Hole

The Blue Holes are, of course, still accessible to the public. And thanks to underwater camera gear and shutter-happy divers, you can see a bit of what the blue holes look like:

Dive04-coral
(Photo credit: Bahamas Tourism)

National Geographic Video

Or view the videos from this diving explorer:

The National Geographic site offers a photo of the pre-human fossil treasures discovered in the Abaco sinkholes and an illustration of a sinkhole:
Visit the National Geographic site.

On almost every dive we find more fossils, said Nancy Albury.

Dive01-hole
(Photo credit: Bahamas Tourism)

David Steadman, a University of Florida ornithologist, explains that the fossils from Sawmill Sink open up unparalleled opportunities for doing much more sophisticated work than ever before in reconstructing the ancient plant and animal communities of the Bahamas …

“It helps us to understand not only how individual species evolve on islands, but how these communities changed with the arrival of people because we know that changes in the ecosystem are much more dramatic on islands than they are on continents. In a typical vertebrate fossil site, you identify the species of vertebrates — reptiles, birds or mammals — and based on that identification you speculate what the habitat might have been … For the first time here in the West Indies, we have here on Abaco plant fossils right in with the vertebrates, so we can reconstruct the habitats in a much more sophisticated way.”

Read more about this exciting exploration on Science Daily’s article Fossils Excavated From Bahamian Blue Hole May Give Clues Of Early Life.

To see figures, check out these from the article “Exceptionally well preserved late Quaternary plant and vertebrate fossils from a blue hole on Abaco, The Bahamas,” and more in a paper, co-authored by Nancy Albury, from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

There is also a great article about the Bahamian Blue Holes on the Coral Science website.

You can see a few more pictures of Abaco’s blue holes on the Friends of the Environment site.

abaco4-R2-E047
(Photo credit: Bahamas Tourism)

Abaco’s Blue Holes and cave systems are incredibly valuable in today’s scientific community as they hold the fossils of extinct animals, clues into global climate change, and new species which may provide the source for new biotechnological products.

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