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There's a giant 'Green Banana' off Florida's coast, and researchers have finally gotten to the bottom of it

By Chris Perkins, Sun Sentinel on

Published in News & Features

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - If you haven't heard of the "Green Banana blue hole" you might imagine a tropical cocktail you can order in Key West, or a dessert you ordered after a night on Bourbon Street.

Forget that. This Green Banana is actually a mysterious sink hole. More specifically, it's a huge, underwater cavern off the coast of Florida that humans had never fully explored - until last month.

Scientists say the Green Banana could hold clues to the formation of toxic red tides, algae blooms that are devastating to Florida's shoreline, and the extent of the aquifer that supplies the state with most of its drinking water.

Maybe even the origins of life.

Blue holes - sink holes that form under water - are not unusual in the Gulf of Mexico. In the mid-1970s, a boat captain sailing about 60 miles west of Sarasota spotted one about 160 feet under water, and an unripe banana peel floating above it. It became known as the Green Banana.

Scientists believe it may have formed more than 10,000 years ago when a sink hole opened to form a cavern 265 feet deep and 425 feet below the surface of the Gulf, further than typical scuba divers are capable of reaching.

 

It's not just the depth of the Green Banana that's a challenge for explorers. It's wide base created by an hourglass shape had never been fully explored until advanced diver Marty Watson did it in August with a team of scientists and researchers.

"What's it like?" Watson asked. "I'm not an astronaut, but it's got to be the closest thing in the world next to it."

Blue holes are thought to be ecological hot spots whose nutrients help supply the food chain around the world. It starts with the phytoplankton that feed on those nutrients, which attracts fish that feed on phytoplankton, which attracts bigger fish that feed on those fish, and so on.

Marine life including sharks, sea turtles, corals, sponges and schools of fish have been spotted near blue holes.

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