Follow a Research Vessel Into the 'Hot Tub of Despair'

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Some of the underwater scenes captured by the Ocean Exploration Trust’s Nautilus research vessel look like they belong on a different planet. Over the summer the expedition live-streamed images of a floating purple orb and a googly-eyed squid. This video recently republished by Nautilus Live depicts something significantly less cute but just as bizarre.

The May 2015 footage shows a large brine pool discovered 3300 feet deep in the Gulf of Mexico. Brine pools form when cold seeps (places where trapped hydrocarbons escape from beneath the seafloor in the form of water columns) collide with deep-sea salt deposits. This creates a highly saline fluid or brine that’s much denser than the sea around it. The brine settles into salty pools, rivers, or lakes that can be toxic to most organisms that wander into them.

The brine pool featured in the video above is especially deadly. Nicknamed the “Hot Tub of Despair,” the 12-foot deep pit boasts a high temperature of 66.2°F in addition to its high salinity content, making it a hostile environment for creatures like crabs.

Though one scientist comments that perhaps animals “just come here to die,” there are a few organisms that manage to thrive in the harsh conditions. Mussels and tube worms were some of the resilient lifeforms the team encountered on their expedition.