By Samuel Mwangi Njogu, 25 June 2011
Courtesy of Lisa M. Pratt, The Trustees of Indiana University NASA National Science Foundation – Scientist Tullis Onstott of Princeton University opens a borehole in a section of rock wall in a South African mine near where “radiation eating microbes” were found- photo source: http://www.washingtonpost.com
Scientists have discovered strange worms in Deep South African gold mines that could be the ones found in hell.
The bible indicates that hell is located under the ground towards the centre of the earth and that there are worms found there meant to inflict torment on the damned souls
The scientists who discovered the worms nicknamed them “worms from hell” but do not mention anything to do with the biblical hell in relation to the worms. They may have coined the name from the fact that the worms live in extremely hot conditions and in total darkness, the conditions found in hell.
The two lead researchers, Gaetan Borgonie of the University of Ghent in Belgium and Tullis Onstott of Princeton University, said the discovery of creatures so far below ground, was akin to finding “Moby Dick in Lake Ontario.”
The article on the worms first appeared in journal nature on Wednesday’s 11th June 2011.
1 Processing plant, Beatrix Gold Mine – photo source: http://www.goldfields.co.za
One of the worms formerly named Halicephalobus mephisto was found about one mile below the surface in Beatrix gold mine.
The research is likely to trigger scientific challenges and cause some controversy because it places far more complex life in an environment where researchers have generally held it should not, or even cannot, exist.
Borgonie led the South African nematode investigation largely without professional support or funds. He said that nematodes are known to exist on the deep ocean floor but not more than 10 to 20 feet below the surface of the ground or the ocean bed. The nematodes he discovered live in extremely hot water coming from boreholes fed by rock fissures and pools.
Courtesy of Gaetan Borgonie at University of Ghent – Head of a nematode “Halicephalobus Mephisto”.- photo source: http://www.washingtonpost.com
Complete worms of about one third of an inch in length, were found in two mines and DNA of another was found in a third. They were found at depths of between two thirds to more than two miles. The worms nearer the surface were brought to the lab and survived.
“it was not so much a dig as an underground safari. We went into the deep Au mines of South Africa, the mines that were the inspiration for Tolkien’s mines of Moria. Down in the tunnels you can access high pressure fissures of water by opening a valve. That water contains microbes and the occasional worm issuing from the fractures behind the tunnel walls. The water is hot and steamy, stinks of rotten eggs, and full of methane gas. Quite enjoyable “Said Tullis Onstott in a chat on Washington post website about how they made the discovery.
According to scientists, the worms use radiation from surrounding rocks to break down molecules in order to derive energy. The worms feed on bacteria.
Carl Pilcher, director of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute in California, commented on the usefulness of the research.
“It is entirely plausible, in fact extremely likely, that subsurface environments like those described in these papers exist on other worlds in this solar system and in other planetary systems,” he said of the new work and Onstott’s earlier discoveries.
The scientists who made the discovery went down the South African gold mines 25 times to collect samples.
This discovery is a huge one and one of its kind because the worms are the first multi-cellular organisms to be found in deep subsurface of earth.
What scientists seem not to comprehend is that Isaiah of the bible wrote about the existence of worms in hell a few thousand years ago. Isaiah 66:24 talks of worms in hell.
“….their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched…” says the book of Isaiah.
Jesus also talked about worms in hell in mark 9:45.
It might as well turn out that these real worms are from the real hell.
It is not the first time that scientists are making an amazing discovery about strange worms. About twenty years ago, scientists riding in a submarine came across strange worms called riftia thriving in a hydrothermal vent deep down the sea where no light reaches.
The “worms from hell” and riftia worms have two major common characteristics in that both can thrive in extremely high temperatures and can survive in total darkness.
Accordingly to the bible, hell is an extremely hot place with fire burning with brimstone which refers to sulphur(Rev 21:8). Although there is fire in hell, it is said to be a totally dark place because no sunlight ever reaches there.
Research showed that riftia worms, also called giant tube worms, survive on sulfur, the chemical that fuels fire in hell. Bacteria that live in the worm synthesize sulphur and the byproduct of this process becomes the livelihood of these worms.
Scientists have been quick to say that the new discovery of “worms from hell” could be an indication that there exists extra terrestrial life i.e. life beyond planet earth. They have said that this discovery actually shows that harsh conditions such as those found in other planets like mars are not a reason that life cannot thrive, after all, these worms have survived in a similar environment.
The significance of these worms to scientists is therefore that life could exist elsewhere apart from planet earth. This implies that scientists are not likely to focus their research further about the existence of worms in the real hell but rather are going to concentrate more on discovering extraterrestrial life!
Professor Tullis Onstott on the extreme right with colleagues (not involved in the research).Tullis Onstott, one of the lead scientists who made the discovery is a professor based in the University of Princeton, NJ, U.S.A.
photo source : http://www.princeton.edu
However, Tullis Onstott, one of the lead scientists who made the discovery, has hinted in a chat on Washington post website that they are going to find out where exactly nematodes appear in the sub surface and how prevalent they are. They also intend to look for nematodes beneath the sea floor near deep sea vents. He says that if they exist on the sea floor, they should exist beneath the sea floor.
That gives hope that one day scientist will find the place below the surface of the earth where these worms are prevalent- and that could be hell!
If scientists can take what prophet Isaiah wrote about worms from hell as a hypothesis and base their research on that, may be they can make more amazing discoveries about hell.
It is strange that these scientists decided to call their newly discovered worms “worms from hell”. One day, it might dawn to us that these are the real worms from the real hell!
Marc Kaufman, “‘Worms from hell’ unearth possibilities for extraterrestrial life” the Washington post, Wednesday 1st June 2011, http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/discovery-of-worms-from-hell-deep-beneath-earths-surface-raises-new-questions/2011/05/31/AGnzJTGH_story.html
Tullis Onstott, “worms from hell” http://www.Washingtonpost.com, Thursday 2nd June 2011, http://live.washingtonpost.com/worms-from-hell-researcher-chats.html
- “1 Processing plant, Beatrix Gold Mine”, online image, www.goldfields.co.za , retrieved 25th June 2011, photo source url
Further reading on worms from hell