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.

Ozarks Cave Explorer's Club
Travel and tourism are inextricably part of the fabric of the Ozarks’ culture and economy. And caves have been a part of the tourism industry in the Ozarks for a very long time. Find a list of caves in Missouri and Arkansas participating in the Missouri Caves Association’s Ozarks Cave Explorer Passport Program.
Build Your Own Terrarium and Monitor Water Quality
Stormwater run-off can easily pick up pollutants and cause erosion. Plants and trees help filter stormwater run-off and prevent erosion. The water flowing through the lower levels of Fantastic Caverns, began as stormwater on the surface. Create your own terrariums and monitor water quality.
Create Your Own Cave Confections
Create your own cave treats following these simple recipes. Caves provide habitats for unique species. Make your own edible cave habitats in the form of hollow meringue cookies or dessert rolls.
Cave and Karst Picture Finds
Find cave animals in these photos. The karst terrain of the Ozarks provides habitat for unique life. There is a very delicate ecosystem beneath our feet.
Create Your Own Aquifer in a Cup
Create your own miniature aquifer in a cup. The limestone present in the Ozarks has cracks and voids that allow water to permeate and pass through it. Water flowing through the limestone passages of Fantastic Caverns, began as rainwater.
Create Your Own Crystals
You can easily grow your own crystals using sugar, salt or alum. Many crystals are minerals, and occur naturally. Minerals are the building blocks of rocks, like the limestone of Fantastic Caverns.
Cave and Karst Word Searches
Find words related to caves and cave life in these fun Cave and Karst Word Searches. Missouri is known as the Cave State, boasting more than 7,500 caves and counting.
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
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 at Fantastic Caverns
The health and safety of our guests are top of mind as we continue to offer our memorable ride through cave experiences. We have increased the frequency of our everyday health and safety protocols and procedures, and we are taking precautions to keep everyone safe and healthy.
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.
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