Dubbed the “Dragon Hole,” it’s 90 metres deeper than Dean’s Blue Hole in the Bahamas, leading researchers to believe it could be the deepest blue hole on the planet.
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.
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Scientists from the Sansha Ship Course Research Institute for Coral Protection used an underwater robot with a depth sensor to determine the size of the sinkhole – claiming Dragon Hole is over 300 metres deep.
Researchers found more than 20 species of fish in the upper part of the sinkhole, which is also known as a blue hole. But below 100 metres, it is largely oxygen-free, meaning life is unlikely to survive there.
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.
According to Xinhua, local legend holds that Dragon Hole is mentioned in the Ming dynasty novel “Journey to the West,” in which a supernatural monkey character gets a magical cudgel from an undersea kingdom ruled by a dragon.
Scientists speculate that the Dragon Hole in the South China Sea probably formed in an environment that’s similar to blue holes in the Bahamas.
Many blue holes currently flooded by seawater in the Bahamas likely originated as sinkholes during a glacial period when ocean levels were lower, but subsequently became flooded after the last ice age, when continental glaciers melted and global sea levels increased.
The Sansha city government in Hainan Province, China, said it has drafted measures to protect and study the blue hole in the South China Sea.
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.
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