A team of University of Toronto geoscientists have found the earth’s oldest water – in Northern Ontario of all places.
As the CBC reports, the two-billion-year-old water was found in an active copper, silver and zinc mine near Timmins, Ont.
The discovery could be groundbreaking, leading to a new understanding of ancient life on earth and other planets.
The findings were a result of the researchers’ earlier search of water in the same mine in 2013. Geochemical analyses of the water (which we are not even going to try to understand) 2.4 kilometres below the surface revealed that it was a billion years old.
Since then, the researchers have gone even deeper into the mine – a whole three kilometres down – finding H2O that’s even more unique.
“Everything about the water is brand new. We are seeing signals in all isotopes that we’ve identified so far that we’ve never seen anywhere else,” said Oliver Warr, a postdoctoral researcher and leader of the team to CBC.
He said that helium, argon, neon, krypton and xenon were found in the water.
Because these gases accumulate over time, in the fluid trapped in the rock fractures, the researchers were able to determine the age of the water by calculating how much gas has accumulated in it.
“If water has been down there for up to two billion years, it can tell us something about the atmosphere at the time, or the state of the Earth, which previously we’ve not been able to get much insight into,” Warr told CBC.
So, it’s a pretty big deal.
“That could have great ramifications as to how life might exist at these kinds of depths, how it might survive,” Warr said. “It could start paving the way for understanding life on other planets as well.”
Apparently, it may hold life, which Warr said could have great ramifications as to how life may exist and survive in such depths both on earth and other planets. While it may hold the key to greater understanding of the earth’s history, you may not want to drink the water, which Warr says is up to eight times saltier than seawater, and likely has some trace metals in it.
“It won’t kill you if you drank it, but it would taste absolutely disgusting,” he says.
But how cool would it be to say you’ve sipped the oldest water known to humankind?