When Earth scientists are now able to venture beyond the gravity of the Sun and the deepest corners of the universe, we have a gift under the Earth’s crust here.
We know that the planet has in its garb an abundance of secrets concerning its creation and history. It takes pure courage to see them one by one.
Since 1992, Dr. Sherwood Lollar of the University of Toronto and a small group have conducted studies on Kidd Creek, Canada’s 2.7-million-year-old Precambrian Shield.
It is one of the world’s biggest continental shields – without question the oldest and least tectonic pieces of the world’s crust, reasonably intact now despite a troubled past.
It should be noted that the crust of the earth is constantly fluctuating and that even the oldest floor of the ocean dates from just a few hundred million years ago.
But seventeen years later their team successfully removed the recording salt from 2.4 km deep within the Earth. The team concluded four more years and innumerable experiments in line with the age of 1.6 billion years for the water found.
It also brought down their mass spectrometer in the UK’s Oxford University during research. The experiments were carried out according to the mean age of the samples taken earlier from active copper, zinc and Ontario silver mines and then deemed to be the oldest.
Dr Lollar with the sample of water
She won 2019, Gerhard Herzberg, Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering for this year’s best science award, and the 2016 John C. Polanyi Award of the NSERC.
The thesis was written in the journal Nature Communications as “Sulfur-independent mass-fractionation in surface fracture waters suggests a long-standing sulphur cycle in precambrian rocks.”
What has been collected so far along with the water?
In order to assess its age, the geochemical study of a water sample included the measurement of radiogenic noble helium and xenon gases. Lollar demonstrated how the water subsumes these elements for a long time.
The team found also some sediments at the bottom of the water sample which were moved to Ingenium in 2020. (the Corporation owning the mine). It was subsequently found to be an iron oxide that precipitated from the water after exposure to air oxygen.
The recently discovered water was very salty – ten times as much as the sea water and had a musty smell.
In this subterranean fluid a number of chemicalolithotrophic species, known to prosper in the most intense and harsh environments. The microbe density amounted to around 1,000 to 10,000 cells/ml of liquid. And the experiment couldn’t say the exact microbial taxa.
Researchers discovered that microbes feed on the chemistry present in deep sea beds that are considered to host similar extreme types of life on the Earth.
Why is this finding more important?
This unruly shield from which this liquid drop is now the nearest analogy on Earth to the sub-surface of Mars, which may be never met the churning powers of platform tectonics.
NASA’s Perseverance rover is out there to give important clues to our alien quest, particularly our beloved Red Planet.
If the waters will bring life under this mine, the same is likely to happen on the Red Planet. What it takes is a closer look outside and beyond.
Lollar exclaims: “If biomarkers are around, signs of past existence, they must be on the surface. We don’t think about Earth life anymore as the stain of surface biology. Life may be all that penetrates our planet profoundly.”
She says the old water could help answer a question curious earthlings have asked, as long as our wings have extended in space outward: could there be life on other planets?
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