Oldest Water On Earth? Canada Copper Mine Offers A Postcard From Dawn Of Life

Posted: Updated:

A team of scientists has uncorked what may be the oldest water on the planet -- a sprawling reservoir buried deep beneath the Canadian Shield.

And that water may even have a thing or two to tell us about the possibility of life on Mars.

“This is the oldest (water) anybody has been able to pull out, and quite frankly, it changes the playing field,” University of Toronto geologist and team co-leader Barbara Sherwood Lollar told the Calgary Herald.

The water trickles through cracks in a copper mine near Timmins, Ont., roughly 2.5 kilometres below the surface, according to LiveScience -- and it may have been there, sealed from the rest of the planet, for as long as 2.7 billion years.

For the researchers who published their findings in the journal, Nature, on Thursday, it may represent a postcard from the very dawn of life on Earth.

Rich in chemicals such as methane and hydrogen, the water appears to be a banquet for microbes -- although life has yet to be detected, according to New Scientist.

Geochemist Greg Holland, who helped analyze the water, suggests that the presence of life in this water could support the theory that life may also be percolating far below the surface of Mars or even other, more distant planets.

The volcanic rock within which the water was found is “very similar to Martian rocks,” he told the Globe and Mail. "When Mars was much more habitable, three to four billion years ago, life there went underground and has carried on living happily ever since.”

Previous to the Canadian discovery, the oldest known underground reservoirs dated back no more than tens of millions of years, Discovery News reports.

"The study shows some of the neon found its way outside of the rock minerals, gradually dissolving into, and accumulating in, fluids in crevices," Lollar told Terra Daily.

"This could only happen in waters that have indeed been cut off from the surface for extremely long time periods."

And those waters may not be as bereft of life as previously thought.

"It's really only in my lifetime that we've begun to understand that the subsurface of our planet isn't just a sterile wasteland. When I was in first-year university we still thought that," Barbara Sherwood Lollar said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

"We're understanding that there is deep life, that it's run by a different kind of energy, often. What we're really interested in now is finding out more about the nature of that kind of life."

Also on The Huffington Post

Share this
Current Slide

Suggest a correction

Around the Web

The world's oldest water. - Rockcollector.co.uk

Touching the oldest water on Earth - Quirks and Quarks - CBC

Largest, oldest water mass in universe spotted - Technology ...

Earlier Water On Earth? Oldest Rock Suggests Hospitable Young ...

Scientists Discover The Oldest, Largest Body Of Water In Existence ...

Lake Vostok drilling complete: Earth's oldest super-clean water ...

Oldest Water On Earth - TerraDaily

Water on Earth and Moon May Have Same Source: Ancient ...

Ancient water could hold clues to life on Earth and Mars

Water on Earth and Moon May Have Same Source

Moon and Earth Share Common Water Source: Ancient Meteorites

2.6 Billion-Year-Old Water Found in Deep Mine

Untouched For The Last Billion Years, Water In Canadian Mine Holds ...