The ‘Slow One,’ A Bubbling Mud Geyser Near The San Andreas Fault, Is On The Move Again After Decades

The Niland Geyser is on the move once again after decades of inactivity and is threatening infrastructure as the mud pool ambles along erratically.

Slow One Niland mud geyser
RS Smith Photography / Shutterstock

The Niland Geyser is on the move once again after decades of inactivity and is threatening infrastructure as the mud pool ambles along erratically.

A bubbling mud pool called the Niland Geyser, affectionately known as the “Slow One,” has recently started moving again after decades of inactivity, and is also curiously ambling along in the same region as the “Big One,” where two tectonic plates have formed the San Andreas Fault.

As Live Science reports, the geyser is now perilously close to railroad tracks, optic cables and Highway 111, and has been likened to a veritable poltergeist. However, geophysicist Ken Hudnut, who works with the U.S. Geological Survey, has stated that the Slow One geyser is almost certainly not a sign of a major earthquake on the horizon in Southern California. In fact, there has been even less seismic activity than there usually is in the region over the past several months, according to Hudnut.

Scientists have been aware of the existence of the Niland Geyser since its discovery in 1953, and determined that it first formed after previous earthquakes created cracks that allowed gases trapped deep underground to be propelled up and above the surface, which then caused bubbling mud to come seeping up from deep within the hidden recesses of the Earth.

After decades of quiet inactivity, this Southern California geyser began creeping along suddenly over the course of the last three years and was certainly the talk of scientists, who noticed that its movements were highly erratic. At one point, the Slow One took three months to move over a space of 60 feet, and then all of a sudden rushed forward 60 feet in just one day.

At the moment, the Niland Geyser is in danger of seriously disrupting infrastructure like a petroleum pipeline, fiber-optic telecommunications lines, a Union Pacific freight railroad track, and also a chunk of Highway 111, which intersects with Interstate 10. Alfredo Estrada, Imperial County’s fire chief and emergency services coordinator, has called it “a slow-moving disaster.”

Scientists have tried their hardest to stop the progress of the Slow One, but to no avail. Even draining some of its spring water didn’t help matters any, nor did a 100-foot underground wall, as the geyser simply slid beneath this wall. Over a span of 10 years, the Niland Geyser has crawled along 240 feet from where it was first discovered and shows no signs of letting up anytime soon.

As geophysicist David Lynch explained, “It’s a quirky thing. If there was no railroad nearby, you wouldn’t even know about it. This would just be something out there chewing out the desert.”

While the Slow One mud geyser in Southern California is apparently not indicative of a major earthquake, its rapid progression recently is certainly still causing trouble for infrastructure in the region.