A team of British and Canadian scientists think they’ve found the oldest water sealed off from the Earth’s atmosphere hidden deep in the Earth’s crust, and estimate it is between 1.5 and 2.67 billion years old.
YouTube video, “1.5-Billion-Year Old Water Discovered”, published by GeoBeats News on May 17, 2013 ~
The researchers analyzed water welling up from boreholes drilled 1.5 miles under the planet’s surface in a zinc and copper mine in Timmins, Canada.
YouTube video, “Gold Diggers Unleash Water Trapped in Rock for 1.5 Billion Years”, published by slatester on May 17, 2013 ~
An analysis of the water, particularly its xenon content, suggests it is at least 1.5 billion years old, and even much older if it was around at the time as the rock formations in which it was found — an age range that came as something of a shock. “We were expecting these fluids to be possibly tens, perhaps even hundreds of millions of years of age,” said Chris Ballentine, a geochemist at the University of Manchester, in a statement. The water was found in the Precambrian Shield, a geological formation covering much of northern Canada, which billions of years ago was at the bottom of a sea. While the water is still being analyzed for signs of microorganisms, it does contain hydrogen, nitrogen, and methane in forms that could support life.
YouTube video, “Scientist Find Oldest Water On Earth”, published May 16, 2013 by VideoNewsPortal ~
Greg Holland, a geochemist at Lancaster University in England, announced in the journal Nature, that this is the oldest cache of water ever found. “That is the lower limit for the age,” Holland says. It could be a billion years older. That means the water was sealed in the rock before humans evolved, before pterosaurs flew and before multi-cellular life. But how did it end up underneath that gold mine in north eastern Canada? Where did it come from? “The fluids that we see now are actually preservations of ancient oceans,” Holland says. About 2.7 billion years ago, the landscape of small-town Timmins looked a bit different. Beneath prehistoric seas, tectonic plates were spreading, and magma was welling up to form new rock. As the rock matured under heat and pressure, water was trapped inside tiny cracks. The rock drifted around the globe for eons, helping form continents and mountain ranges, and all the while it kept its cargo of water sealed up tight inside. “It’s managed to stay isolated for almost half the lifetime of the Earth,” Holland says. It’s a time capsule. And it doesn’t just hold water. “There’s a lot of hydrogen in these samples.” That’s significant because hydrogen is food for some micro organisms. Hydrogen-eating microbes have been found deep in the ocean and in South African mines where chemical reactions in the rock produce a steady supply of hydrogen. And that hydrogen, says Holland, “could provide the energy for life to survive in isolation for 2 billion years.” Holland’s colleagues are now testing the water samples for evidence of microbes. They hope to have results within a year. If life is found, it would have evolved distinctly from the surface world and might give a unique insight into the earliest forms of life on Earth. Its discovery would also give hope to people searching for life in places that are even more remote.
This map, from the United States Geological Survey, shows the age of bedrock in different regions of North America. Scientists found ancient water in bedrock north of Lake Superior. This region, colored red, was formed more than 2.5 billion years ago.