This Geologist Tasted The Oldest Water On Earth
by Trisha Leigh
If you’re like my six-year-old, you won’t even drink water that’s been sitting out for a couple of hours – and here this grown woman is, drinking the oldest water on earth.
I have questions.
The water was found in a Canadian mine back in 2016, about 1.8 mils beneath the surface. There, geologists found flowing water that tests revealed was 1.5 and 2.64 BILLION years old.
Professor Barbara Sherwood Lollar says its isolation was key to its survival.
“When people think about this water they assume it must be some tiny amount of water trapped within the rock. But in fact it’s very much bubbling right up out at you. These things are flowing at rates of liters per minute – the volume of the water is much larger than anyone anticipated.”
— CBC Science (@CBCScienceEnv) May 6, 2019
They also found traces of life under a microscope.
“By looking at the sulphate in the water, we were able to see a fingerprint that’s indicative of the presence of life. And we were able to indicate that the signal we are seeing in the fluids has to have been produced by microbiology – and most importantly has to have been produced over a very long time scale. The microbes that produced this signature couldn’t have done it overnight. This has to be an indication that organisms have been present in these fluids on a geological timescale.”
“The sulfate in this ancient water is not modern sulfate from surface water flowing down. What we’ve found is that the sulfate, like the hydrogen, is actually produced in place by reaction between the water and rock. What this means is that the reaction will occur naturally and can persist for as long as the water and rock are in contact, potentially for billions of years.”
Sherwood Lollar is the one who gave it a lick.
“If you’re a geologist who works with rocks, you’ve probably licked a lot of rocks. The water was very salty and bitter, much saltier than seawater.”
The saltier it is the older it is, apparently.
Maybe I should add a pinch to my kid’s water and see what happens.