Lighthouse Reef: Blue Hole: Stalactites at 110 Plus Feet

Saturday, February 22, 2003

017-18.720 N
087-32.220 W
Marine forecast for this location

"WOW!" is all that I can say about our 2nd trip to t he Blue Hole at LightHouse reef in Belize. We had an amazing set of dives there yesterday. Doug, from Que Linda, claims that he daydreamed his way through his childhood English classes imagining what it would be like to explore places like the Blue Hole. You may recall watching Jacques Cousteau explore the Blue Hole with the Calypso. We were very close and Doug *really* wanted to go, so a couple of days ago the crews of BlueJacket, Kiwi and Que Linda moved our boats to Half Moon Cay in preparation for the trip to the Blue Hole.

Yesterday, February 21st, we all piled onto Que Linda with all of our gear. This was no small feat as Que Linda is 33' and we had 6 people, 6 dive tanks, 4 sets of dive gear and 2 dogs! We definitely took a different route than we did the first time that Sue & I went. There's a nice clear channel in sand just alongside the deeper blue water. While we had to keep a bow watch for coral heads, we didn't have to wind through patch reefs like we did the first time. On top of that we had picked the perfect day to go as there wasn't a cloud in the sky. It's only about 7 miles from Half Moon Cay to the Blue Hole and we were there by about 11:30. The tide was really low and the fringing reef made the hole stand out brilliantly.

The Blue Hole is a perfectly round hole in the ocean's floor surrounded by a coral ring. It's over 500 yards in diameter and 450' deep. During the ice ages it was a huge cavern with fresh water dripping through the soft, porous limestone ceiling. Once the ice ages ended, the sea rose and flooded the area causing the roof of the cavern to collapse and become what it is today.

Doug & I wanted to do 2 dives. We knew that they'd be deep so we wanted to get in the water as soon as possible in order to have sufficient surface time between dives. As soon as we pulled in we were setting up gear and getting ready to hop into the water. Since Sue & I had failed to find the stalactites on our previous trip we checked with a local dive boat and found the best ones were located to the west of a mooring ball on the south side of the hole. Sue, who isn't a fan of deep dives, decided not to dive. Doug, Linda and myself loaded ourselves into the dinghy and headed across the hole to the mooring ball while everyone else went snorkeling.

We pulled our gear on and rolled over the sides and began our descent. The first 60-80 feet were very murky with lots of silt in the water. As we cleared 80' the water began to clear and much to our amazement we started seeing stalactites at about 100'. These were the babies and as we worked our way along and down the wall we encountered massive overhanging ledges with stalactites that were 3-6 feet in diameter. Some of these had formed columns where the stalactite had met the stalacmite and could easily have been 100' high! Some of the bigger stalactites were 40' long. As you swam along you just kept seeing more and more of them. The perspective of looking DOWN these columns was really cool...not something that you'd easily see on land.

The water at this depth was amazingly clear considering the silt above. The silt filtered the light providing an diffuse glow and at this depth all of the color had been filtered out making everything look grey. Doug had a dive light and it revealed that the columns were really a reddish color. You could look down and see more ledges below, but due to our depth (145-165') we couldn't explore them. And due to the depth our bottom time was limited to about 7 minutes, so all too soon we were headed back to the surface.

After a 2 hour lunch break which featured some fresh bread that Linda had just made, Doug & I hopped back into the water wanting to circumnavigate the hole. We descended into the hole at the northern edge, turned right and dropped to 80-100'. Almost right away we were treated to fantastic views of overhanging ledges and stalactites. At one point I came up to 3 closely spaced stalactites forming an arch. I was able to swim right through the arch and I'm sure that if I had put my arm out I could have touched the outer two.

I was carefully monitoring my depth, air and nitrogen levels. We were swimming rapidly around the hole and probably about 1/2 way around we ascended to 50-60 feet where there wasn't much to see. After about 1/2 of an hour I drew a circle on my hand and made a questioning gesture to Doug who responded that he thought that we were about 3/4 of the way there. We ascended to 15 feet and continued swimming along. When I hit 500 lbs of air in my tank we surfaced and much to both of our amazements, we were directly in front of the boat. Talk about perfect planning!

Our trip back was uneventful, but tonight we're going to have an event. It's Doug's birthday and we're hosting a birthday dinner for him aboard BlueJacket. That'll be fun, but after that we're going to need to get moving to Mexico as our boat papers are about to expire. But that will just bring a new set of wreck diving in Mexico's Chinchorro banks!

-- Geoff & Sue

Log ID: 340

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