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Brine Pool: An Underwater Lake

Earlier mapping surveys indicated a large crater the team nicknamed "The Pit of Despair" and suspected could be a brine pool. What is a brine pool? It's an underwater lake, with its own surface and shoreline. Water with such a high salinity from salts leaching out of the seafloor creates a barrier to the water around it, essentially a lake...underwater.

Ocean Exploration Trust

Brine Pool "Tidepools"

Along the segmented shoreline of the brine pool, small pockets of brine water have filled in to created a jewel-like rim to the shore.

Ocean Exploration Trust

A Unique Underwater Shoreline

The distinctive mineralization on the edge of the brine pool creates beautiful shapes along this distinctive shoreline. Brine pools in the Gulf of Mexico are formed from "salt tectonics," where salt layers that formed during the Jurassic period have moved and shaped the seafloor.

Ocean Exploration Trust

Mussel Bed on the Shore of the Brine Pool

The brine pool is surrounded by a chemosynthetic bed of mussels living with methane-consuming bacteria in the sediment. Only extremophiles can survive within the harsh environment of the brine pool.

Ocean Exploration Trust

Creatures on the Edge of the Brine Pool

Crabs and fish will cautiously approach the brine pool, but seem to know not to get too close, as the water in the pool would be toxic to them. They instead have a symbiotic relationship with the fauna surrounding the shore.

Ocean Exploration Trust

Toxic Nature of the Brine Pool

Not all creatures seem to know the rules, though, and this isopod unfortunately explored to deep in and met his end. It does allow us to clearly see the surface of the pool, and how distinct a body of water it is from the surrounding ocean.

Ocean Exploration Trust

Hercules Hovers Above Brine Pool

The ROV Hercules hovers above the 25 meter wide brine pool approximately 4,200 feet down (1,300 meters) on the seafloor in the Gulf of Mexico. This brine pool was nicknamed by the crew as the "jacuzzi of despair" because of bubbles seen seeping from the water and its ominous crater-like image on seafloor maps.

Ocean Exploration Trust

Shore of the Brine Pool

The brine pool has its own shoreline, with minerals seeping over the edge and cascading down its sides.