Discovery Sets Live Broadcast From Bottom of Massive Submerged Sinkhole (Exclusive)

The on-board exploration team includes Richard Branson and explorer Fabien Cousteau, grandson of Jacques Cousteau.
Courtesy of Discovery Channel

Discovery Channel is going live, broadcasting from the bottom of one of the largest submerged sinkholes in the world.

Located 46 miles off the coast of Belize, the Blue Hole is known around the world for its crystal-clear water and its abundance of sharks and sea life. But this remote spot has only ever been fully explored once, in 1971, by legendary ocean expert Jacques Cousteau.

The Blue Hole has never been mapped or even plotted, and while many speculate what is at the bottom, the exact answer remains unknown. To that end, Discovery has tapped a team of explorers who will venture down to its bottom in a fully manned submersible.

The on-board exploration team will include businessman/philanthropist Sir Richard Branson; explorer Fabien Cousteau, grandson of Jacques Cousteau; and Erika Bergman, the submersible's pilot. The mission is said to be the very first time since 1971 that anyone has attempted such a feat.

The two-hour special, Discovery Live: Into the Blue Hole, will explore the sinkhole in real time and attempt to shed light on its mysteries. The team will also have access to a fully equipped second submersible with additional lighting that will allow them (and viewers) to see as much as possible.

In addition, the special will focus on sea-related topics such as how the Blue Hole was created and how technology has evolved since Cousteau's first mission, and will examine the many legends surrounding the sinkhole.

The broadcast will be hosted by marine biologist Luke Tipple (featured on Discovery's Shark Week) and presenter Chris Jacobs (host of TLC's Long Lost Family and Velocity's Overhaulin').

Meanwhile, vessels will continue exploring the Blue Hole for two weeks after the dive and track the site. Discovery says the data collected will help construct real-life models of the Blue Hole's geographical features to help researchers and scientists from around the world understand how changing sea levels affected its formation and to provide key information about climate change patterns.

"Venturing into the unknown as well as exploring the world with new technology in the name of science and entertainment has always been at the core of Discovery's DNA. We’re thrilled to be bringing such a major expedition to Discovery," said Scott Lewers, executive vp multiplatform programming and digital media.

The special will premiere from 4 to 6 p.m. ET/1 to 3 p.m. PT on Sunday, Dec. 2, on Discovery and also will air around the world. Watch the trailer above.

It's produced for Discovery Channel by INE, Impossible Works and Discovery Studios. For INE, Mark Koops and Sarah Davies are executive producers. For Impossible Works TC Conway is the executive producer. For Discovery Studios, Sandy Jarrell and Gregg Moscott are executive producers. For Discovery Channel, Scott Lewers and Christina Bavetta are executive producers and Lian DesMarais is supervising producer.

This is not the first time Discovery has gone live. The network has previously aired live telecasts, including Nik Wallenda's tightrope walk across the Grand Canyon.