It’s called the “Dragon Hole,” and Chinese scientists believe it may be the deepest “blue hole” on the planet.
China’s state-run Xinhua news agency says the Dragon Hole is 987 feet deep ― or more than 300 feet deeper than Dean’s Blue Hole in the Bahamas.
Blue holes are essentially giant pits in the sea that can plunge hundreds of feet, and are known for the distinctive blue colors visible from above that give them the name.
Dragon Hole is located in the Paracel Islands, also known as Xisha in Chinese, a disputed island group in the South China Sea claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Although scientists only just determined its depth, the blue hole has been known for centuries.
Local fisherman say it’s where the Monkey King found his golden cudgel in the 16th-century Chinese novel “Journey to the West,” according to the Washington Post.
While the hole played a key role in folklore, it may also play an even more important one in science.
“Research into a blue hole can provide detailed records of how the climate or water level changes over tens of thousands of years,” Prof. Yang Zuosheng with Ocean University of China told CCTV. “Once we have that data, we can deduct the patten of evolution for climate change in the South China Sea, including its ecosystem, hydrological system, and its landform.”
The Sansha Ship Course Research Institute for Coral Protection told Xinhua that they’ve already found 20 species of fish in the hole, although they are concentrated in the upper portion as there is no oxygen below about 330 feet.
They explored the hole using a robot with a depth sensor.
The Dragon Hole has been given the formal name Sansha Yongle Blue Hole, and local officials say they plan to protect it.
“We will strive to protect the natural legacy left by the Earth,” Xu Zhifei, vice mayor of Sansha City, told Xinhua.
The claim over its depth still needs to be independently verified. However, one expert said it’s quite likely there are even deeper holes ― they just haven’t been found yet.
“All the ones we study offshore in Florida you can’t see from the surface,” Jim Culter, senior scientist at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota, told the Christian Science Monitor.