Hear the word geyser and one might immediately think of Yellowstone’s famous Old Faithful Geyser.
In Southern California, there is a massive geyser that has garnered some attention but it’s not nearly the same. This one lies beneath the ground, is made from mud – and it moves.
Residents of California have heard of the ‘Big One’ – the imminent major earthquake that is expected to occur along the San Andreas Fault line. However, few, if any, have heard of what scientists have dubbed the ‘Slow One.’
Officially named the Niland Geyser, this pool of bubbling mud, which smells like rotten eggs thanks to the hydrogen sulfide content – is a mass of carbon dioxide gas and is located along the infamous San Andreas Fault.
The ‘slow one’ first appeared in 1953, near the town of Niland and was thought to be a typical, static mud pot. Fast forward 50 plus years and the mud pot had seemingly come to life and began to journey westward in 2007.
Emergency services personnel are keeping a watchful eye on the crawling mud pot because it is moving close to railway tracks, Highway 111, and it is making its way uncomfortably close to gas and telecommunication infrastructure.
Another cause for concern is that the geyser’s movement has quickened and as a result, it has moved 240 feet from where it was first discovered over a decade ago, leaving behind unstable ground.
U.S. Geological Survey scientists assert that the geyser’s movement is not seismic activity but a phenomenon not atypical in thermal, earthquake prone areas.
Thankfully, the ‘slow one’s’ unhurried pace is giving officials enough lead time to plan to avoid a potentially catastrophic event. Detour plans for the railway tracks and Highway 111 have commenced.
For individuals considering a career in geology, a license is required in California and must be obtained through the California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists (BPELSG). For more information about geologist licensure and other related professionals licensed through BPELSG, visit the board’s website here.