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Richard Branson found plastic at the bottom of the largest ocean trench in the world. The billionaire plunged into the pit with Fabien Cousteau, grandson of French explorer Jacques Cousteau, and National Geographic explorer Erika Bergman late last year. In a blog post about the trip, he said that the discovery of bottles at the bottom of the Great Blue Hole shows the great need to “get rid of single-use plastic objects”, adding that these have become “an scourge for the ocean. ” The Great Blue Hole, off the coast of Belize, is almost 304 meters wide and 124 meters deep. It is part of the Barrier Reef Reserve Network (BBRRS), considered a World Heritage Site by Unesco. It is located in the center of an atoll called Reef of the Lighthouse.
The Great Blue Hole was formed as a limestone cavern hundreds of thousands of years ago, when the sea level was much lower. At the end of the last ice age, the sea level grew around 91 meters, submerging the cavern, which became the natural wonder that it is today. The site became famous in 1971 when Jacques Cousteau explored it, declaring it one of the most important places in the world to practice scuba diving. Branson visited the Great Blue Hole last month and broadcast his exploration on the Discovery Channel. In a later post on his blog, Branson wrote: “We traveled about 10 minutes on the submarine inside the Great Blue Hole and began to approach the wall of it.
The first thing we saw was a huge wall of giant stalactites, which were incredibly beautiful. “The Great Blue Hole is formed by a complex system of caverns that formed on the mainland. It is a test of the way in which the oceans can increase their level quickly and catastrophically. Once, the sea level was tens of meters lower. 10,000 years ago, sea level rose by about 91 meters when a large amount of ice melted worldwide. After descending about 90 meters, it is possible to see the change in the rock where there used to be land before becoming sea. It was one of the crudest reminders of the danger of climate change that I have seen. ” He then noted that the three divers moved into the thick layer of hydrogen sulfide, a colorless toxic gas that has formed over the centuries. Underneath it, the team found creatures that had fallen into the hole and died due to lack of oxygen.
“And what about the mythical monsters of the deep? Well, the real monsters facing the ocean are climate change and plastic, “Branson wrote. “Unfortunately, we saw plastic bottles at the bottom of the hole, which is a real scourge for the ocean. We have to completely get rid of single-use plastic items. ” The scientific team that worked with Branson will produce 3D images of the Great Blue Hole. It is also part of Ocean Unite, a conservation group that hopes to protect 30 percent of the ocean by the year 2030. The discovery of plastic in the Great Blue Hole by divers should not be a great surprise.
Massive plastic production began in the 1940s and 1950s. In 2017, scientists at the University of Georgia announced that about 8,300 million tons of plastic had been manufactured, most of which had been discarded. Plastic has been found in sediments from the bottom of the sea more than 4 km below the surface of the ocean. It has also been found on the ice of the Arctic Sea and in the mountains of Switzerland. More recently, scientists announced that plastic particles can be found in human faeces throughout the world. Philipp Schwabl, lead author of the research, said: “It is likely that the amount of plastic pollution will grow even more if humans do not change the current situation.”