Oldest Water on Earth Found Deep Underground, London, 15 May (Prensa Latina)Scientists took a sample of water from a mine deep underground in Ontario, Canada. The water turned out to be 2.6 billion years old, the oldest known water on Earth. A pocket of water some 2.6 billion years old -- the most ancient pocket of water known by far, older even than the dawn of multicellular life, has now been discovered in a mine 2 miles below the Earth's surface.
The finding, announced in the May 16 issue of the journal Nature,
raises the tantalizing possibility that ancient life might be found deep
underground not only within Earth, but in similar oases that may exist
on Mars, the scientists who studied the water said.
Barbara Sherwood Lollar at the University of Toronto and her colleagues
have investigated deep mines across the world since the 1980s.
Water can flow into fractures in rocks and become isolated deep in the
crust for many years, serving as a time capsule of what their
environments were like at the time they were sealed off.
mines in South Africa 1.7 miles (2.8 kilometers) deep, the scientists
previously discovered microbes could survive in pockets of water
isolated for tens of millions of years.
These reservoirs were
many times saltier than seawater, "and had chemistry in many ways
similar to hydrothermal vents on the bottom of the ocean, full of
dissolved hydrogen and other chemicals capable of supporting life,"
Sherwood Lollar said.
To see what other ancient pockets of water
might exist, Sherwood Lollar and her colleagues investigated copper and
zinc mines near the city of Timmins in Ontario, Canada.
prices of copper, zinc and gold have gone up, mines now go deeper,
which has helped our search for long-isolated reservoirs of water hidden
underground," Sherwood Lollar said.
The scientists analyzed water they found 2 miles deep. They focused on noble gases such as helium, neon, argon and xenon.
Past studies analyzing bubbles of air trapped within ancient rocks
found that these rare gases could occur in distinct ratios linked with
certain eras of Earth's history. As such, by analyzing the ratios of
noble gases seen in this water, the researchers could deduce the age of
Sherwood Lollar emphasized they have not yet found
any signs of life in the water from Timmins. "We're working on that
right now," she said. "It'd be fascinating to us if we did, since it'd
push back the frontiers of how long life could survive in isolation."