The ocean on fire? It seems like a scientific oxymoron. But over the weekend, it happened.
You've likely seen the video of volcanic-like flames sparking out of the ocean. The striking videos show ships - dwarfed by the size of the blaze - dousing water onto the orange swell that resembles molten lava.
Some people online, where the videos have been widely circulated, have called it a "portal to Hell" or "eye of fire".
🚨 Sobre el incendio registrado en aguas del Golfo de México, en la Sonda de Campeche, a unos metros de la plataforma Ku-Charly (dentro del Activo Integral de Producción Ku Maloob Zaap)— Manuel Lopez San Martin (@MLopezSanMartin) July 2, 2021
Tres barcos han apoyado para sofocar las llamas pic.twitter.com/thIOl8PLQo
So what exactly was this, and how did it happen?
In the Gulf of Mexico, the inferno formed on the surface of the ocean at about 5:15 a.m on Friday morning local time.
The blaze was caused by a leak in an underwater gas pipeline, controlled by Pemex - Mexico’s state-owned oil monopoly. The burst in the valve triggered an explosion and the resulting fire on the surface. It occurred about 400 meters from the Ku-Charly oil production platform.
The fire took five hours to be extinguished, using nitrogen. No injuries or deaths have been reported, but the impact on the local marine life is yet unknown.
Angel Carrizales, the head of Mexico’s oil safety regulator ASEA, said on Twitter that the incident “did not generate any [oil] spill," but did not explain what was burning.
Online, many people pointed out the inherent danger in permitting oil companies to drill into fossil fuel reserves from the ocean floor.
"The ocean is on fire” is one of those things that you can type and it’s true and yet it doesn’t feel believable https://t.co/EouJfQIbjq— Brian Kahn (@blkahn) July 2, 2021