Scientists have been observing an interesting “lake” at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico for years because it seems to be a very toxic place for sea life to dwell. Many who find their way inside of this underwater lake don’t live to tell the tale.
As you might be wondering how it’s possible for a lake to exist under what’s already known to be a body of water, it turns out that this lake under the Gulf of Mexico is made up of a denser type of briny water and even has traces of methane in it. Because the patch of water is denser, it has the ability to stay put despite being under water already.
These are known as brine pools, and the one under the Gulf of Mexico certainly isn’t the only one in the world, but it’s close to us and is easy to explore and learn about.
The ocean’s water is already briny, but not as briny as you might think. Sea life can handle the amount of salt in ocean water, but when it gets even saltier, sea life tends to have trouble surviving.
Image Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust
Because the lake at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico is so dense, its chemical makeup is different; the shee5 amount of saltiness, which can be up to five times higher than the surrounding ocean water, makes it hard for ocean life to survive there.
It’s enclosed by a thin wall, which holds the denser water like a bowl. Researchers had to be very careful not to puncture the wall with their observation craft, as it could allow the denser briny water to leak into the Gulf of Mexico’s water, which would be quite the hazardous spill.
“It was one of the most amazing things in the deep sea," Erik Cordes, associate professor of biology at Temple University who discovered the site, had said in a statement. “You go down into the bottom of the ocean and you are looking at a lake or a river flowing. It feels like you are not on this world."
As seen in the video, many animals that got trapped inside of the lake met their fate. Sea crabs could be seen inside, dead, as they were unable to survive in the harsh chemical conditions there.
There are some forms of sea life that can survive in brine pools, however. Among those are certain kinds of bacteria, shrimp, and even tube worms. As you can tell, the list isn’t very long.
Nevertheless, there are all kinds of sea life just chilling on the outside wall of the brine pool. The water surrounding it is perfectly save for sea life. While risky, as a single puncture into the wall could harm nearby species, the animals will be just fine as long as the barrier between them stays up.
So where did these mysterious brine pools come from? As sea water slowly finds its ways into the cracks of the ocean floor, it was able to mix with salt deposits below the surface, which caused a deadly mix. Methane gas from below the surface then bubbled up, pushing that altered seawater back up into the brine pools we see today.
Just consider these rare regions hot tubs of despair.
Nature can certainly be weird sometimes, can’t it?