'Shadow Zone' Sounds Creepy But ​Scientists Have Discovered Ancient Water Trapped Inside It

It literally takes just the opening credits of Blue Planet to have us all sat, mouths open, totally mystified by the ocean. It's deep, it's dark and it's full of weird and freaky creatures.

It's beautiful and oddly spooky in equal measures - but, ultimately, just cool.

But what if we were to tell you that the sea boasts its very own 'Shadow Zone', a murky lightless area thousands of feet below the North Pacific ocean that has trapped the same water for an incredible 2,000 years?


This is according to a recent paper by an Australian team of researchers in Nature, the international science journal.

Apparently scientists have known about 'ancient water' for some time, but less so about the specifics of why and how it is where it is.

"Carbon-14 dating had already told us the most ancient water lies in the deep North Pacific," the lead author and University of New South Wales oceanographer, Casimir de Lavergne, Ph.D, said in a statement. "But until now we had struggled to understand why the very oldest waters huddle around the depth of 2km."

Following the discovery, it seems that the reason why the 'ancient water' has remained trapped for so long relates to ocean topography of that area - specifically, the location and the depth of the 'Shadow Zone'.

A rectangular patch of deep ocean, stretching 3,700 miles (4.83km) from east to west and 1,200 miles (1.61km) north to south, the surface area of the 'Shadow Zone' is a little larger than that of Europe. So pretty big, then.


Credit: PA

It also has a craggy, uneven floor, and it's this rough surface - along with shallower wind-driven currents - that have helped keep the ancient water trapped for thousands of years. Sounds a bit like the swimming pool of a cheap hotel in Benidorm.

However, according to the researchers, it isn't just this ancient, 2,000-year-old water that's stuck in the 'Shadow Zone'. In fact, the trapped molecules could have huge effects on the ocean - and, on a bigger scale, even global climate - when the water does eventually escape.

"When this isolated Shadow Zone traps millennia old ocean water it also traps nutrients and carbon which have a direct impact on the capacity of the ocean to modify climate over centennial time scales," said Stockholm University co-author Fabien Roquet, Ph.D in a statement.

Ah, nature. So fucking cool.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Jess Hardiman

Jess Hardiman is a journalist who graduated from Manchester University with a BA in Film Studies, English Language and Literature, and has previously worked for Time Out and The Skinny among others.

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