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World’s second largest blue hole discovered in Chetumal

Chetumal, Q.R. — The second deepest blue hole in the world has been discovered in Chetumal. The discovery was made by scientists from El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (Ecosur) and Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (Conacyt) in 2021, but not announced until now.

The blue hole was located on the seabed of the Bay of Chetumal and has been reported to be 274 meters deep across a surface area of 13,690 square meters. The hole has been named Taam Ja’ which means “deep water” in Mayan.

The deepest blue hole in the world is reported in Sansha Yongle, China, with a depth of 300 meters below sea level. While the Chetumal blue hole is the second deepest, it is the first to be identified within an estuarine system.

According to a statement from Conacyt, the finding is of great relevance for marine scientific research which represents a window to obtain information on what the environment and climate were like thousands of years ago.

Such information can help to understand environmental and geological processes, the connectivity of aquifers and the origin of water in these hydrogeological systems.

Blue holes, unlike sea trenches and ocean abysses, which are formed gradually over centuries and millennia by tectonic plate movements, reaching depths of up to 11,000 meters, are shallower and are formed due to processes fracturing, dissolution and collapse of soils, such as those belonging to the limestone platform of the Yucatan Peninsula, and which are motivated by movements of entry and exit of seawater, floods or oscillations in sea level during glacial periods and interglacials.

The Mexican blue hole Taam Ja’ is almost circular on the surface, covering an area of approximately 13,690 m 2 . Its sides are steep, with 80-degree slopes that form the structure of a large cone covered by biofilm, sediment, limestone and gypsum overhangs.

The mouth of the blue hole is located at a depth of between 4.5 and 5 meters below sea level, where the properties of the water change significantly with temperature and salinity gradients.

The blue hole investigation was conducted using scuba diving, echo sounders, CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth) profilers, and the collection of water samples in September 2021.