Biologist Stumbles Upon Massive 'Blue Hole' in Great Barrier Reef

The great blue hole, shown above, appears to have competition in Belize. (Photo: Wollertz/Shutterstock)

The power of Google Maps has once again uncovered a natural wonder hidden within Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Marine biologist Johnny Gaskell was recently perusing online satellite imagery of a stretch of reef off Queensland when he came across an intriguing anomaly of deep, dark blue.

"After spotting this deep blue hole on Google Maps we decided to head far offshore, out further than our normal Reef trips to see what dwelled within," he wrote on Instagram. "What we found inside was hard to believe considering 5 months ago a Cat 4 cyclone went straight over the top of it."

At depths of 50-60 feet, Gaskell discovered pristine colonies of giant birdsnest corals and extremely long Staghorn corals. All appeared to have been completely unaffected by Cyclone Debbie, which slammed into the region as a Category 4 storm in late March.

"The position of this deep hole within the lagoon walls has obviously protected these corals for decades," Gaskell added. "We may very well be the first to ever dive Gaskell's Blue Hole as it was so far offshore and hidden deep within one of the Great Barrier Reef's biggest lagoons..."

Blue holes, a kind of giant submarine sinkhole, are so-named because of their depth in relation to the surrounding limestone or coral reed bedrock. The darker the blue color, the deeper it extends below sea level. Famous examples include the Great Blue Hole in Belize and the recently-discovered Dragon Hole in the South China Sea, which dives a record-breaking 987 feet straight down.