Scientists have discovered an otherworldly brine lake around 3,300 feet under the surface of the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico. Called the “Jacuzzi of Despair,” the deep-sea pool is comprised of a toxic brew of salt, hydrogen sulfide, and methane gas, and any creature that inadvertently wanders in tends to die.
The Jacuzzi of Despair stands apart from the surrounding sea inside a wall of salt deposits, bacteria, and giant mussels that feed on hydrogen sulfide and methane gas. Just inside the pool’s rim, the scientists saw creatures like isopods the size of laptops and deep-sea crabs that had crawled in and are now preserved in the toxins. Scientists visited the pool in Alvin, a research submersible, from the exploration ship E/V Nautilus; their journey from the surface to the Jacuzzi of Despair took nearly an hour.
Biologist Erik Cordes of Temple University was in that research vessel, and is the lead author of an article on the deep-sea pool in the journal Oceanography. Cordes told Seeker the brine pool was “one of the most amazing things in the deep sea.”
The Jacuzzi of Despair is aptly named because it is a toasty 65 degrees Fahrenheit, much warmer than the sea surrounding it, which is 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Scientists say the warmth may have attracted the creatures found dead just inside the pool’s rim.
These deep-sea pools are rare; this is not the first to be found but the other one discovered in the Mediterranean doesn’t possess such a thriving ecosystem as the Jacuzzi of Despair, with mussels and bacteria on its rim.
Further deep sea research could help scientists think more deeply about life on planets across the solar system and maybe even the universe. Cordes told Seeker, “There’s a lot of people looking at these extreme habitats on Earth as models for what we might discover when we go to other planets. The technology development in the deep sea is definitely going to be applied to the worlds beyond our own.”
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