Ponds within oceans.
September 19, 2006 6:56 PM   Subscribe

The Brine Pool, at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, is a salt pond more than 50 meters in length, whose water has such a high concentration of methane gas, that it supports surrounding mussel beds resembling a beach shoreline, around its entire perimeter. Called by some "one of the strangest places on earth", The Brine Pool also provides habitat for hag fish and other creatures who dive into and out of its salty water for cover and camoflage, as well as some weirdo worms that live on the strange frozen methane hydrates that can form in, or adjacent to such pools. In some photos, "waves" can be seen on the "surface" of The Brine Pool, as its heavy salt water remains distinct from the seawater of the Gulf above.
posted by paulsc (38 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, this is super neat. Thanks!
posted by dejah420 at 7:23 PM on September 19, 2006

Heard them talking about this on NPR today.

posted by empath at 7:29 PM on September 19, 2006

The "second surface" effect showing the ripples is called a heliocline. You can sometimes see a less marked effect in underground caverns where both fresh and sea water are present.

Nothing actually lives in the pools, nothing even goes into the pools, it's just too toxic. Everything just lives off the tiny creatures that feed on the crazy chemistry the pools produce.
posted by NinjaTadpole at 7:34 PM on September 19, 2006

Thanks paulsc, I spent a good 20 minutes wandering the web learning about the Gulf of Mexico, the Florida Escarpment, methane hydrates, carbonate shelfs ... I love these kinds of tangents.
posted by intermod at 7:36 PM on September 19, 2006

A nit: the quote in the second linked article is actually "one of the most exotic places on Earth."
posted by The Tensor at 7:45 PM on September 19, 2006

Very cool, Paulsc. Thanks!
posted by Iridic at 8:02 PM on September 19, 2006

this rocks, thank you!
posted by owhydididoit at 8:08 PM on September 19, 2006

That video of the underwater wave made my day. When I heard the NPR story I was bummed becuase I'd never get to see it. Happy again!
posted by lekvar at 8:08 PM on September 19, 2006

Earth is weird.

Thanks, I am now one step closer to knowing about everything!
posted by aubilenon at 8:18 PM on September 19, 2006

Batfish insane.
posted by sourwookie at 8:20 PM on September 19, 2006

Thanks for this. Fascinating.
posted by pointilist at 8:23 PM on September 19, 2006

Good post, paulsc.

Hagfish are found throughout the deep sea and are generally regarded as the vilest creature in the ocean, mainly because they produce astonishing quantities of slime.

From Wikipedia:
When captured and held by the tail, they escape by secreting the fibrous slime, which turns into a thick and sticky gel when combined with water, and then cleaning off by tying themselves in an overhand knot which works its way from the head to the tail of the animal, scraping off the slime as it goes.

Hagfish enter both living and dead fish, feeding on the insides.

posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:55 PM on September 19, 2006

"Nothing actually lives in the pools, nothing even goes into the pools, it's just too toxic."

While maybe believed to be true today, this will surely be proven wrong in twenty years or so. There are countless places on Earth that once were thought "too toxic" to support life.

Cool post byt the way.
posted by pwb503 at 9:34 PM on September 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

The batfish picture in the second link is amazing. I want to catch a couple of those little animals and stick them on my boobs.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 9:44 PM on September 19, 2006

great post, very interesting stuff - thanks, paulsc!
posted by madamjujujive at 10:45 PM on September 19, 2006

I remember hearing something about this a while ago, the idea of a lake within an ocean is just fascinating.

Plus, the idea of hagfish armed with loogie-guns dosn't hurt when trying to keep my interest.
posted by quin at 12:58 AM on September 20, 2006

Oh, wow. Those 'dispatch' entries from that deep-sea expedition are going to keep me up all night now. I hate sea creatures. I mean, I don't really, I'm sure squid are fine, good, upstanding contributors to the global ecology, but pretty much everything from the sea scares the shit out of me. Two foot long isopods. "Isopod" of course being sciencese for "fucking gigantic eww eww eww giant bug eww oh my god."

Great post. Exploration is neat. Hagfish, not so much.
posted by blacklite at 1:19 AM on September 20, 2006

Those batfish are cute little fellers. Thanks for the post! But sourwookie, your batfish insane link appears to have kicked the bucket.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:26 AM on September 20, 2006

Hah, I just came here to post the link to the isopod page. (scroll down.)

Ok, giant crab, squid? Fine. Perhaps even tasty. Giant freakin' Isopods? Holy crap that's a hell of a pillbug. I wonder if they roll up into balls like their tiny land-dwelling brethren?
posted by loquacious at 1:33 AM on September 20, 2006

I mean, WTF!

But for reasons not yet clear, in the deep sea they can be enormous,

That's because the deep is home to the Old Ones, who hunger for our flesh even now in their profound slumber.

perhaps two feet long or more. ... A crowd of these beasts was congregating on the bait bag when the submersible got to it. The team collected three, the largest of which is pictured here, but amazingly there was one even larger that the pilot decided would be too big for the sample buckets.


As with all the animals coming up, the team will be studying these creatures to learn how their bodies absorb and reflect light, and what effects that may have on their ability to avoid being eaten by predators.

There's something that eats those firetrucking things? Don't want to meet. Do not want. Fleeing now, kthxbye.
posted by loquacious at 1:40 AM on September 20, 2006

Best of the web!. I spent an hour showing my nine year old (who is convinced he wants to be a marine biologist). This simply confirmed it, a whole family here happy, Paulsc, many thanks!
posted by Wilder at 1:50 AM on September 20, 2006

goo lagoon!
posted by riotgrrl69 at 3:10 AM on September 20, 2006

I was part of a deep wreck expedition in the Gulf in 2004. We visited five wrecks at various depths. All were sunk during WWII (or within a few years of the war). It was interesting to see how the sea growth on the wrecks, all of which are about the same age, varied greatly according to depth.

Site is here. My favorite video is here.
posted by MotorNeuron at 5:05 AM on September 20, 2006

Very well done post, paulsc.

Steve Irwin would've loved this.
posted by geekyguy at 5:08 AM on September 20, 2006

They had some hagfish in a deep sea exhibit in the Norwalk Aquarium in CT once...then the entire exhibit burned down.

After seeing those suckers up close, I actually felt sort of relieved that they weren't going to crawl out of the tank and slowly eat me.
posted by thanotopsis at 5:43 AM on September 20, 2006

Intellectually gratifying - I love the mental image of submersibles just "sitting" on top of such dense, saline areas, scoping out the worms & mussels.

But, viserally speaking, a bit creepy - we really still don't know the myriad forms of life that are, or could be, wandering around down there in the Ry'leh-like deeps.

I kinda like it.
posted by FormlessOne at 6:12 AM on September 20, 2006

Hagfish bukKake
posted by Eekacat at 7:03 AM on September 20, 2006

"Eelskin" is actually hagfish leather.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:04 AM on September 20, 2006

I knew I shouldn't have followed the link to the isopod page. Those giant fucking sea cockroaches will haunt me in my sleep for months to come.

posted by Penks at 9:21 AM on September 20, 2006

I am staying far, far away from your boobs, Powerful Religious Baby.

Giant pillbugs are pretty neat; then I found out that there are parasitic isopods which eat the tongues of fish and then attach themselves in their place, living in the fish's mouth. I do not want to know if any of the larger isopods also have this behavior. Gahhhh.

Culinary use of hagfish slime. I predict it will shortly be showing up on grocery store shelves next to either the clamato or the guar gum.
posted by hattifattener at 9:28 AM on September 20, 2006

Those isopods look a little too much like headcrabs.
posted by brain_drain at 9:33 AM on September 20, 2006

Ho, you don't know what you're missing, hattifattener--what with the slo-mo bouncing and the agglutinate animals.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 11:18 AM on September 20, 2006

I too spent much of the late evening reading throught the links... the @Sea.org links are the most fascinating. The videos of the squid and swordfish are incredible.
posted by Duncan at 12:05 PM on September 20, 2006

Great post
posted by lalochezia at 1:53 PM on September 20, 2006

I read an account years ago of a man who had made it his mission in life to make hagfish palatable. They're apparently edible enough, but according to the article there is no way to prepare the hagfish that is actually tasty. It seems only appropriate, really.
posted by lekvar at 2:06 PM on September 20, 2006

I saw a segment of the show Daily Planet on Discovery where someone was making an ingenious use out of the hagfish's slime, unfortunately I don't remember what it was.
posted by Vindaloo at 2:34 PM on September 20, 2006

Very nifty paulsc, I’ve never heard of this.

“There's something that eats those firetrucking things?”
Humans. Humans will eat anything.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:08 PM on September 20, 2006

There is plenty of beautiful footage of these in the BBC's 2001 series "Blue Planet". Isopods and all.
posted by milovoo at 4:13 PM on September 20, 2006

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