Gulf of Mexico’s underwater lake is the thing of nightmares

Do you remember those movies that featured a pit of acid, usually created by a mad scientist or super villain, to melt the flesh from the protagonist’s body, and promptly kill anyone who fell in? Of course you do. But, surely such a pool doesn’t actually exist?

It turns out that a group of scientists have discovered that it does indeed exist, and they’ve named it the “Jacuzzi of Despair”. Aptly named, the underwater lake in the Gulf of Mexico kills everything that swims into it. It’s the thing of nightmares, really.

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Erik Cordes, associate professor of biology at Temple University, has researched the pool and described his findings in the journal Oceanography. Back in 2014, the marine scientist was researching corals in the Gulf. He was using a remote controlled underwater robot to look a little closer at the deeper colonies when he accidentally discovered the underwater lake. He returned the next year with a team and a three-man submarine to get up close and personal with the toxic, briny pool.

According to his findings, the water in the “lake within the sea” is about five times as salty as the water surrounding it. It sits at over 3,000 metres below the surface and is almost twice the temperature of the surrounding ocean. It also contains highly toxic concentrations of methane and hydrogen sulphide and can thus not mix with the surrounding sea.

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It’s not the heat that makes the pool deadly–it’s the salinity. That’s also what makes it sink to the bottom of the Gulf. Once it was there, it mixed with hydrogen sulphide and other oily deposits on the sea floor “forming a toxic goo that gets cooked by methane leaking from bed. The end result is a toxic oxygen-starved lake that kills crabs and other bottom feeders.”

“You go down into the underside of the ocean and you’re looking at a lake or a river flowing,” he said.

“It seems like you aren’t on this world. We have been in a position to see the primary opening of a canyon…we noticed the brine falling over this wall like a dam. It was this stunning pool of purple, white and black colours.”

For animals (and people) who swim into it, these toxic concentrations can be deadly. Part of the reason Professor Cordes was able to discover the pool was because the bottom was lined with dead crabs that made the mistake of getting too close. Only bacterial life, tube worms and shrimp can survive those circumstances.

For scientists this “lake” is like a playground for their research. They can explore and understand how certain organisms can survive in extreme habitats.

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Watch the video of the drone discovery below:

Have you ever been to the Gulf of Mexico? Do you know of any other strange and interesting places around the world? Share them with us below.

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