What The Great Blue Hole and Fantastic Caverns have in common

What The Great Blue Hole and Fantastic Caverns have in common

Posted on Saturday, December 8, 2018, by Hubert Heck

What The Great Blue Hole, Richard Branson and Fantastic Caverns have in common. The same processes that created the limestone caves of the Ozarks, such as Fantastic Caverns, also created The Great Blue Hole.

Belize is home to what is believed to be the world's most massive sinkhole, The Great Blue Hole. Named by the explorer Jacques Cousteau in 1971, the gigantic sinkhole is located about 60 miles off the coast of Belize. A country located on the eastern coast of Central America, Belize is bordered to the northwest by Mexico, to the east by the Caribbean Sea and to the west and south by Guatemala. A popular destination for scuba diving, Belize's Blue Hole is a complete mystery 130 feet below the water's surface, the depth limit of recreational scuba diving. With a total depth of 410 feet and at 984 feet wide, The Great Blue Hole is about to be extensively explored for the very first time.

Exploring the Great Blue Hole

In an effort to promote marine conservation and to unravel any mysteries surrounding The Great Blue Hole, Sir Richard Branson and Fabien Cousteau, the grandson of the famed explorer, have descended into the sinkhole with Aquatica Submarines' chief pilot Erika Bergman. During the expedition they will map the cave system, monitor water quality and conduct research. Caves and sinkholes (often referred to as karst features) are great for research due to their unique microclimates and historical significance.

Though well equipped and well prepared, Branson, Cousteau and Bergman are venturing into a world unknown. Like the twelve women whom first explored Fantastic Caverns in 1867, there won't be a guide or map to follow. But what knowledge and what rewards might await deep beneath the surface?

Caves have a life cycle 

The Great Blue Hole was once a terrestrial cave, but as sea levels rose, the cave filled with water and became an oceanic sinkhole. The same processes that created the limestone caves of the Ozarks, such as Fantastic Caverns, also produced The Great Blue Hole. Soluble rock, such as limestone or dolomite, erodes or breaks down when slightly acidic groundwater infiltrates cracks and crevices in the rock. Water is the driving force. And that same force can lead to the eventual breakdown of the cave over a long period of time. Collapsed cave systems, which look like vegetation covered valleys or steep bluffed canyons, are the remnants of former subterranean passages. There are a couple examples of collapsed cave systems located along the Canyon Trail on the grounds of Fantastic Caverns. Water and time eroded the former cave passages down to what they look like today.

The creation of a cave system like the Great Blue Hole 

Over time, water infiltrating the ground erodes the limestone or other soluble rock beneath the layers of soil. This creates subterranean voids, underground passages, sinkholes, and other cavities; a landscape known as karst. And just like on the land's surface, water can accumulate underground to form flowing streams and rivers. It was an ancient underground river that carved out the main chambers of Fantastic Caverns that guests ride through today. And in the case of The Great Blue Hole, water carved out and created a terrestrial limestone cave and as sea levels rose, the cave ceiling collapsed allowing seawater to inundate the sinkhole making it the marine wonder it is today. But as we look to the far distant future, it is hard not to wonder what will time and water have in store for these karst natural wonders?

Latest Blog Posts

The latest about our Missouri cave, and other Fantastic Caverns news.

Make Your Own Limestone Fossil Sugar Cookies
You can find fossilized remains of ancient creatures within the limestone of Fantastic Caverns. Create your own limestone-inspired fossils in the form of sugar cookies.
Create Your Own Cave in a Cup Activity
Create your own cave. As water flows beneath the Earth's surface it dissolves and erodes the rock, forming the cavities that become caves.
Health and Safety are top priorities at Fantastic Caverns
We have temporarily closed in an effort prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The underground fleet
Climb aboard the underground fleet at Fantastic Caverns and explore the world beneath your feet. Touring Fantastic Caverns by Jeep drawn trams helps preserve the cave. America's Ride Thru Cave may not be inhabited by humans but the cave system does have a thriving ecology of small critters that call it home.
America's ride thru cave
Missouri caves are well known as the most beautiful caves to see in North America and Fantastic Caverns ranks #1 by many. It's America's favorite ride-through cave attraction and uses their signature red Jeeps to drive you around through the cave.
Fantastic Caverns' Adventure Tour offers enrichment opportunities
Cub Scouts and participants of a new gifted outreach project got a sneak-peek of the upcoming art, science and history program coming to Fantastic Caverns called Adventure Tour. This was an opportunity for enrichment for the kids, and allowed the team at Fantastic Caverns to practice the program before its launch.
Fossilized limestone from Phenix Marble used in new construction
Phenix Marble Company mines block from the same Fossilized limestone deposit that also houses Fantastic Caverns. Stone from Phenix Marble Quarry to be used in grounds improvement projects at Fantastic Caverns.
Saturated grounds provide unique opportunities for visitors
Fantastic Caverns offers free walk-through of the Hall of Giants after extensive rainfall causes flooding.
Cave mapping our Missouri cave, Fantastic Caverns
Cave mapping a cave system is no easy task, but cave maps are useful to scientists and conservationists - and to our many visitors that come to see Fantastic Caverns. Learn how our Missouri cave system was mapped to show direction, length, width, and locations of many of the cave formations inside.
Summer Discovery, Fantastic Caverns' summertime program
Fantastic Caverns had the Boys and Girls Clubs of Springfield participate in their Summer Discovery program.
Missouri State University students filmed at Fantastic Caverns
Fantastic Caverns worked with Missouri State University (MSU) students on a new school film project titled, "What if it’s Poison".
Protecting Fantastic Caverns from TCE
How Fantastic Caverns is preserving and protecting it's natural cave attraction from man-made chemicals, so the cave system can be enjoyed by people for generations to come.
Phone: 417-833-2010
Fax: (417) 833-2042
Fantastic Caverns
4872 N Farm Rd 125
Springfield, MO 65803
Trip Adviser certificate of excellence for Fantastic Caverns