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'Jacuzzi of Despair': Underwater Death Lake Discovered at the Bottom of Gulf of Mexico

Nov 02, 2016 04:00 AM EDT
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A team of scientists has discovered a bizarre and deadly lake 3,300 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. The lake, dubbed as "Jacuzzi of Despair," was first observed in 2014 using Hercules, a remotely-operated underwater robot. A year after its first appearance, the researchers tried to take a closer look of the brine using the three-person research sub Alvin.

Their findings, published in the journal Oceanography, showed that the underwater pool is littered with living mat of bacteria and salt deposits. The massive circular pool is about 100 feet in circumference and about 12 feet deep.

"It was one of the most amazing things in the deep sea," Erik Cordes, associate professor of biology at Temple University and one of the scientists who discovered the underwater lake, told The Seeker. "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."

With waters four to five times saltier than its surroundings, unsuspecting marine animals that went in or wandered into the pool die instantly. The water inside the pool is also relatively warmer than the surrounding water, about 65 degrees Fahrenheit compared to 39 degrees Fahrenheit.

The warmer temperature of the pool also contributes to the luring effect of the brine that serves as the place of death of many crustaceans. Carcasses of deep-sea crabs and other crustaceans can be found in the rim. Due to the high toxicity produced by the combination of methane gas and hydrogen sulfide, the lake can only be populated by bacteria and a couple of adaptive marine creatures.

One of the animals living within the toxic pool are the giant mussels with symbiotic bacteria living in their gills. These bacteria help the giant mussels by feeding off the hydrogen sulfide and methane gas in the pool. Other creatures observed to be living in the Jacuzzi of Despair include adapted tube worms and shrimps.

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