The Salton Sea – The Accidental Salt Lake in California Now With NUKES™


Episode Transcription

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Hey man, so we were talking about slab city, hey man. I know i was. I was just jumping into it. I know what this one's about: well, hey, man, okay, what have you ever heard of salt and sea salt and the sea? The salt and sea salt in the salt and sea sultan sultan cy, i've heard their salt in the sea. No, the sultan see the salt. Are you saying? Salt? O n? Oh salt, an hopital letters? No, i that ocean, like a see, saltine, saltensee, sultan, cy, okay, okay, okay, okay, salt and see yeah, there's a body of water yeah and it's a large, increasingly saline saline, salen, sax, alon, saline lake in the desert, baton basin that we talked about called the salt and trough. Okay. In our last episode, so the last episode, we talked a lot about slab city, which is a city on the shore of the sot on the sea in this region: okay, okay, okay, this on se is i'm musin it, okay, probably shouldn't i'll get there. Okay sounded like the chief chance arbold, paying five and dollar rent and smelling, and then everybody back on as a they loaded, the real new into this plan, and it happened to regularly where they didn't just miss their target. They missed the sea straight up. That's made up things, so there's a massive body of water. Okay, it is about forty feet deep and it's about thirty three miles. Long. Thirteen miles wide o covers a service area. Three hundred and forty three square miles. It is like five times the size of lake of the ozarks. If you stand on one end of it for the majority of the lake, you can't see the other side. It is a massive massive body of water right in the middle of this desert in southern california, about fifty miles from next mexico about a hundred miles from or a hundred miles east of san diego and you otaco south east of la yes, you can bet on it. There is pretty good boating on the lake. What's interesting about this lake wow. What isn't interesting about this lake is a better question. Here's the thing is the thing yeah, so this started this was this was a recommendation from someone on our discord server, but then name of christian habit. Okay, that's his birth name, christian persite, o losin, hoit yeah! That's on our discord, which is available to patron supporters. Yes, yes, which, if you text till in to six six, eight six six, you can get access to that as well as so much more grades of things. Yes, but this was a recognition from him to cover slab city or salton sea, and i looked in the slab city and i thought it was interesting to next get episode, so we did an episode on it. That was a last episode check it out. But when i dove into the salt and sea my m had was blown okay and, as i peeled back the layers of this onion of this metaphorical body of water onion, liquid onion, if you well, it just completes actually that's a season right. They sell up the story just liquid on like what fight i need is. The consistency of tobacco is is like o you making chile e or some liquid on. It's also- and this is true part of a lot of home remedies. Yeou know drink some liquid. I need you care, o soak your socks and look whatever. Oh my gosh, so as i feel that the lay alex told us that he's got to get out of here soon and that's why tim is talking so fast just so you all know, i'm talking so fast and i excited okay done a lot of episodes today and i've been waiting for this one. I wait waiting for it, so it just gets more and more crazy as you go down the story like so we'll start from the top. Scientists believe that this has been here for a long time, not the alten sea but the area. So this giant trough. I said it was lower than sea level right. Well, that's because they believe that this was once a part of the the growth of california, the flood of noah. No, i was okay got it, so the go from california. You know where by not. This is part of the gulf of california yeah. You know where baha california is, and you know mexico. Yes in between that is the golf california. Well, they thought it went up much further in through where this desert was okay at one point at one point it dried up and is now a desert, and that's why it's below sea level, so it kind of like sunk. You know like like that thing where, like there's a yeah, you know curve and over the course of the last roughly thirteen hundred years. They believe that there was four different lakes in this region that had spawned and dried up. So over winter or wetter, more moist climates. There was periods of hundreds of years where it was raining more and so it filled with water, and then it dried up and that water that lake dried up at one point they think in seventeen hundred a got its deepest depth where it covered up to the mountain ranges on either side. The whole reasons come surrounded by mountain ranges like a about eight thousand square miles worth, and so they they think that was all filled. They think it was all fill the reason they believe that is from fossil record and also archeological record of native villages along what they think was the shore line that have tons of fish bones in the village. So i think that that was their main source of be fished in this they fished in the sea, yeah, okay and they think it they based on, and now it's only forty feet, the that's only forty fifty well, here's the thing in the nineteen hundreds there was nothing. There is completely dry completely dry, your desert bed. In fact, there was a town that in the center of the bed, called the salton salton town and they had a salt. There was railroad that get through this desert on hand. Nineteen hundred capitalism hit. You know when you know when capitalism came down, capitalism it and somebody somewhere was like you know. This is a lot of land and i bet we can farm it, but it's a desert. So we got to make it fertile, and i said you know what's near by the colorado river. They said what, if we rout the colorado river reroute it through this desert, to make this fertile, so we could farm this land, and so they bought up a giant swash of the desert and they re routed the colorado river down into this desert and started building these canals to stretch through the whole desert. So that way they could feed all these farms that they were getting ready to plant. In yeah we on hund nine hundred o three. There was a record breaking precipitation level that flooded the colorado river and it burst these canals, and it got quickly got out of control to the point where there was an eighty foot waterfall into the salt and trough, which was this giant valley that the two hundred feet bloss level, it became such a problem that they worked for two years non. Stop trying to patch this this flooding before they were able to dam up the flow by that point. It was far too late and they had filled this water value with what came up to sixteen six million acres per foot of water rushed into this valley over the course of two years, turning it into a massive like man made by accident flood at all the towns in the areas going to say so all run. All those towns are in that water, yeah they're under water, and it was a slow thing. It took two years yeah, so they were able to say now, but they was able to say i probably should go is ma. There's probably someone down there. It was like i'm staying, there's, probably somebody six, the no! I left my family to move out here. Okay, me and my r v are staying and then now they're at the bottom of that lake yeah. What's significant about this lake is after they finished damming up that that that that flowin spot they continued their work to send the canals through the region. So they could start some farms and they finite well the waters here yeah. So they finished it a happy accident yeah, you know so they started all these farms. Okay, and what happened was there was a little bit of a run off feed. They made a smaller canal that fed the salton sea of run off from the mountains right, but then they are a series of canals that came from the colorado river to the canals and then we'll go to these farms. The farms would tipene the water, be their crops and then their run off will go back into those canals and then the run off will go into the sea. The issue was the sea didn't have an out, so i just just water, it was all run off one and it and what happened? Was it's slowly transformed from a fresh water lake to salt water like or see got it okay, and so i became a salty body of water pretty quickly and the so much so that like what a what's, why does that run off was coming from these from up in the middle as up in the mountains, so that saw saw and then, like? I said before this used to be part of the ocean. So a lot of the desert floor in this was the levels underneath it were full of salt from when it was. I, the salt, is kind of flowing back through it and end up becoming the salt by a water. Well, in thirty seven i had mentioned in our last episode that there was a military base that was in the right, and so there was actually an air force, a army and a navy military base in these regions and they'd used. They use the satan sea for a lot of like water based training activities, okay activities activities, it's time for our activities put up a pop, hey everybody, hey hampers. Today we have marine exville exercises. We have landing on an aircraft character and then we got the blob pick a o for a wreck, we're going to take a vote in the calf yeah. I think you guys want to pick what you want to do today, see your camp counselor to sign up for s e, the same energy as he, these girls that go to the beach all right, and if i swear, if i see another instar caption, that's like see you later, i'm gonna go to instar and shut it down, o my god to that head corse. I know that no, i know not all the posts or this, but some of them are that's the problem yeah exactly so so the government took advantage of this. They said this is a salt, water body, o water inside our own continental, united states. We can use this to practice. It quickly became a place where they tested bombs, but not like not here's we can use as supress. Oh, we know what that means all right. Well, we'll move he's all right, yeah acting about there's the thing about testing bombs. This wasn't where they tested bombs that they like were blowing up. This is where they tested like dropping bobs like they were, like we er pack to shop about. So these were live bombs. They were bomb shells that they filled with concrete or just left empty like hollow bombs, and they would fly over. This laleo was my bad in high school in to make a graphic tea, a bit o a bombs, yeah the a s and e li boyatt great bobs, so they would put these floating targets in the lake and they would have the bombers fly over and try to do like doing target practice trying to hit that target, and it was significant because, obviously, that's not an easy thing to do- to fly over something and try to hit it with a bomb from altitude, and it happened pretty regularly where they did. It just miss their target. They missed the sea and they hit the land outside the sea. On a couple occasions, coming very close to there was a lot of towns that were in the region and coming very close to like hitting towns like people in the tempers chill and yeah. You know you're outside just you know, whatever you do in the desert and then you know here it's in a cartoon tim yeah. You do. Do you hear him yeah absolutely do ysale, you think you hear yeah they like whistle. They really do because that's the way there it's their aerodynamics, so you sound like a for to characters and is the neural any mix, so you're saying you're just sitting there and then like doesn't detonate, obliterated a whole like, but there's no pulsion, there's no explosion yeah. They said that they, but it hits one house, you know, put some massive hole in the ground. You got to start to think like if your, if you moved out there to get away from whatever life you left right and then a gigantic, i mean there's they're, throwing bricks through windows and then there's concrete bombs. Hey thanks for being here. We've got merchandise it's a way to support the show and help us do more stuff by new equipment reach more people. If you like what we're doing, i want to help us do that more. Please consider doing that. If you want to link to that all of that's going to be sent to you if you jus text till in to six six, eight six, six i'll tell you it's not a thing here, we're going to text you a lot where no, it's, not a tech service, we're not going to like send you more the mot. It's just a way for you to get a link. It's one text, that's all we're going to send. I promise you yeah, so there's multiple reports of these things, fanatis guy in towns and then quickly, bulldozers come to where that is cleaned it up the mess and then just leave, and so what was really significant about this era was in world war. Two. This is where the pilots who dropped the fat, man and little boy bombs, yeah we're trained yeah, and so they literally dropped replica ukes in this lake, and it was. It was a significant thing because they learned, while they were doing this, that they couldn't fly it altitude high enough to escape the blast, so what they had to do is they had to come and drop it and do this crazy, outur. You turn maneuver to escape the blast, so they were practicing that maneuver here at the salt and sea, dropping these giant concrete bombs. Well after the war. This was still used for this purpose, because the cold war happened and people were stressed about dukes for a while yeah, not so much any more, but i mean a little bit if you think about it. All stress you out. I love that america made the nuclear bombs and then they were like all right guys. No one's allowed to do this anymore. Yeah everybody stopped everybuddy stuff, it's like whenever you're playing tag and you've been it for like fifteen minutes and you finally tak someone e like a i got to go home. I got things over you guys, eyes, paws past cause pause. I said pause you can't tax, a poseiden doesn't all got to stop lass and you're like that's. Not the okay, that's pretty! Well what the us did there. Actually, so in the in the cold war era, they had developed a bomb that was sixteen a quien to sixteen maget tons of tant, which you might remember. If you listen to a caste. Bravo episode that casara fifteen magato, which was ridiculously huge, rumin, created a lot of problems. This was six team, maga tons, and somebody made a mistake or his home somebody when they were planning for the practice round. They had the concrete version and for some reason they stored the real version right next to it and they othey loaded the real nuke into this plane. That sounds like that is again what happens in a tv show, that's straight up, that's made up or like they said like they set something down to the table, and then the other person grabs the other one accident and, like everyone watching you homes like you, got the o yea. You know that they go into this big warehouse with their fake but and they're like. Why didn't we just? Is there nothing? We could have spray painted the word real. It's so easy to identify it's so easy to go. This is not that one. This is not yeah yeah. Well, they didn't do that, and so they loaded the real bomb in this plane to go to its practice run. What was convenient or maybe comedian is the right word, but the good thing is luckily this i had a double safety, and so the double safety was that before it was dropped, someone had a manually insert like the admission system into the bomb: okay, still full of explosives, let still full of reactive, material and explosive. It just couldn't detonate, but they dropped it into the son sea and then they noticed they said that was the real bot did. How do they notice, though they went back? They were like o yeah. I don't know exactly how they knows, but they notest so massive search on the real one. I m i'm bars to say this. I spray painted a little heart with my first initial and my crushes first imita on it, and i'm just saying that this doesn't have the arts i like to think that they went. They took it to the nevada test range and they didn't go off and they were like no, i it was empty, it fell apart. It fell by and then the other guy was like sottin saltin they wash at and they were like. Okay, they had all the big legs around they're like here's our new, but you got a long guys are got a love. There's a o, remember castle. Bravo, wait! You ready to see your bones all right, make sure you, like you, take your glacees, a okay. Here we go, you watch it you're ready, don't look away. Don't look await, put your pot away all right, guys! That's where it's going to go off just give it a second a moment just so he me a phone. Please. I need a big, a phone call. Germany can never know about that. Don't tell germany, don't don't tell me i shot yes, so so i do they go get it. A massive search went under way to find with a d the whole thing, a masser here's the thing we have declassified documents detailing the search. We have no declassified document saying they ever found it. Oh my god, he won't say, but it's pretty clear, that there is a live nuclear bomb at the bottom of the sea. Well, not necessary, live the safety is not in it, but i mean it's a nuclear bomb just sitting at the bottom of the sea, and this was a a sixteen mega, tum bom. So if it were to accidentally dentate, i mean it probably would just do a ton of damage in this area, but also it's only a hundred miles outside of la and san diego is not far from vegas or phoenix, so the fallout would greatly affect all of those major cities greatly. So, and those are the only things that matter who cares like anybody who lives in between? But man if it got to la that's a problem, you know so many people live out in the desert, but they take the risk. Okay, o what they would greatly impact. They know i get i'll, tell you who you know who would notice? You know who would notice it would altown lithe would know they would not notice, they would survive they're on the ground. They were day bold, come out and rebuild see. Somebody tell germany, i think it happened. I think they did it. So it's just sitting to the bottom of the season at the bottom, the sea, and what significant about this is remember how i told you there's like just a steady flow of run off coming into the sea and no way for it to go anywhere else, yeah. Well, a couple things are happening with this one in the water radio active. Then it well, it's consistently becoming more and more sartin. You know. At night i mean, though it's just glowing gorgeous glows yeah yeah, god, zilla comes out every night of the water. I was with detail, you didn't he is left out. No, so the the the salt content is significantly increasing, so when, when it first became salty, obviously it was just a couple like points of a percent. Today, it's at five point two percent saltiness, which five point. Five is the point where most biologists say: nothing can survive in the god water. So it's getting very close percentage of the ocean. I don't know like two or three: i don't know it's really not much guest. I hate the years like i don't know to try. I o, let's find out three point: five. Okay, it's close. It's called that educated guess, no big deal, so he just don't his water bottle out of said, probably the only way to respond, like the thing that i just said made me so mad that i a made me so angry that i had to physically responsible water on my be the towel or i aprite, that's a i roars. I ran a cut that out and pretend it didn't happen. I got head he's. The thing is ironing to me dripping on my forehead. I got sweat it and the gonies chest just sweat, it's hot it's summer, it's summer, man, summer, vives, okay, so is ironic. You said that though, because that was the original solution was when this happened. The engineers like it'll dry up, it's the desert, like the lake, the giant, see that they just created a i: u r it didn't anyways, so the the it got salty and salty and salt here right, part of that run off was the fertilizer from the farms. The unintended con consequence of this was that it fertilized the lakes which birth, giant algy blooms in the lake s and also is just full of fertilizer, which is not good rightso. Some people have this theory that the salt and the fertilizer is is eating away at the bomb and maybe the other bombs, because they there's theories that there's probably more than one time that this happened with how easy it was for them to do this with one nuke for them to do this, one every what? If here's the other thing? What if, when they went and drop those bombs in like japan, they so the ru just gigantic grass people mean, like the sirens, are going people like, oh my gosh, and then he just how anticlimatically t and then like, and then everybody back home is like the like check, the the hearts on the one and the in the storage that yeah that's rough i'll, tell you o those didn't blow up, but i'm about to yeah. So so some people theorize that the the outer casing of this bomb as going to go way right and the radio acto material has been leaking into that's what i like yeah. What's there's merit to it because all on the shore, if you take a guy or counter there's above average radiation levels, it's not enough exposure for it to hurt you now, but there's another way. I can get you which we'll get to in a second. Do you think that's what they were picking up whenever they're at the bottom of salvation mountain they were like this is toxic ground, actually, there's. Actually, that might be accurate. I didn't think about that, but could be someone else is like no. No it wasn't. It just depends on who you ask yeah honestly with the government with most ended that one yeah, but maybe we did the second one and they're like well yeah, it's fine, it's not toxic, not the tax is care everything safe. So because the navy is not the government yeah exactly so here's the thing in the s while the testing was still happening, somebody an investor- if you will, because that's what they were, saw an opportunity here in the saltons. They said: hey, look, here's a giant empty piece of land, pretty close to palm springs, that's doing great all right and they said, but this one has an ocean like a literal ocean, you can't see this side, its salt water, as beautiful blue water, it's great to swim in there's not much of a current, so you can vote in it really easy and he said opportunity ox. So he built a resort and a golf course and a yacht club and then a couple other guys said: hey i'm going to do that too, and this sea just got lined with tourist traps. Oh no, and it was a desert already too so the whole shore, this thirty three mile long lake, all the shores are already beautiful, pristine beaches like ready made for right tourists, and so it became the tour destinations of tourist destinations s and s. This is where local californians went for vacation because they were like we're not going to go to the beach here because we lived there, so they went out to the saltensee. I want to go to a different beach. I want to go to a note, be hired to this be yeah, so it became a massive tors destination. They built a theater and out like what an outdoor theater an ampatheater. If you will has woe and the beetles came nat king cole came like big name artists. They were bringing through and they made this a. They made this the spot and it was for years even so much so that a few of the investors pulled together and they dumped a ton of fish into this lake, so much fish so much fish that it became a world renown, fishing spot and the rumor had it that you didn't even need bait. You could cast a baitless hook and catch a fish because it was just floods to medic in there and those fish are magnetic as stick ter. It's the radio act, never even yeah. You really goin to pull them apart. It's yea and there was so many fish that the fish attracted all these different birds from all around the region, the mountains and on the other side of the mountains, the sea and so there's just sea goals and birds, and it also became a world renowned bird watching spot. And so now you have tours trying to find a beach. And then you have a fisherman and bird watchers traveling from literally around the world. To come to this salt, an see for one of those three things and to enjoy a fabulous vacation wow you could ruman. You could do the whole family, you know dad's into fishing moms in to bird watching and kids are into sneaking off and running around and the a roping bombs yeah yeah. You got ye older brother who's. A coming to find this bomb. Do people like dive in this die or dive dive like they peemple liting yeah? I don't know, i guess i guess i imagine if people are swimming in it, that's a that's. What a kind of curious about the whole time was, our people like people were swimming in it this whole time. I don't know if anybody was scuba diving, but i would assume like it was a towards strap. If people are scooping anywhere else, they probably were scoading here. You know yeah, that's what this place was. It was a tourist trap. Hey just popping in again to say: are you tired of advertisements? Are you tired of us not talking about the subject that you click the link to listen to? Well, great news for you, patriot, doesn't have any of our advertisements, doesn't have us pitch in our merchandise or a patrin, obviously you're already there, but it also doesn't have you to bads or anything else, so sign up for patron you'll hear less commercial breaks. Our goal really is to break you with breaks. Thank you patron com, slice, grand myers tillen last join well. Remember when i said it was getting saltier and saltare and saltier yes, so starting in the s there began to be these massive die offs of tourists. No, so the percentage you gave f the five point, two percent of work. That's today, that's today, that's today we, and so when it started. It was obviously like decimal percentages, i'm over time it got worse and worse, and so in the sis there began being these massive dieu events where massive populations of fish would die and then wash up on shore, and so the shores would be lined with fish. In the s, there was a very significant one where an entire species of fish in the lake was killed off by a disease that ravaged them out, and it also killed off a ton of birds who were eating those fish that were diseased and they would die in the water and they would all wash up on the beach. It was so significant that someone who worked in the area said that they had an incinerator burning carcasses. Twenty four hours a day for three weeks to clean up the the damasius, have the speech for a family trip right and then just fish after fish after fish is just washing up literal piles of carey carcie, look at all these car ki, and so so. The decline of marine life was catastrophic. These algy blooms got larger and larger because the furie just kept feeding them, and so it became this thing where all the marine life was dead and the salt levels of it started getting so significant that the the water itself began to smell like rotten eggs and the fish were dead, and so you had dead fish and rotten eggs. Whether t was the smell of this whole sea, they put on the panfers and rotten aks and and then nuclear radiation on top of that right, possible new possible, clear radiation and in the s the kind of nail in the coffin for it was there was this rerouting of a lot of the water that flowed through those canals to san diego and los angeles, because they needed more water, yea, and so a lot of those farms went not a business because they couldn't feed their farms any more, which decrease the run off, which was sustaining the lake at its current level. So so it started to recede because it was evaporating. How deep was it then? I don't know how deep it was then, but i do know that estimates right now say that i it's three hundred and thirty square miles right right now, yeah three hundred three hundred forty thee squirms, it's estimated by thousand and forty to have lost seventy five square miles in jeez water mask, has the the evabody the evaporation all of the i mean. I guess you kind of hope that in the next forty years it evaporates all the way- maybe it one of these ole bombs will stick out here's the problem with that, so all of the sand that was blow. So it's back about fourteen or fifteen feet as far enough, maybe even further in some areas, because far enough, where the yacht clubs and the docks all of those are completely above ground, now, they're, not above water at all any more. So the shore line is way out there. Okay and here's. The problem with this is the water that the the what used to be the sea floor is heavily contaminated with really high salt levels, radiation, the alge blooms and the whatever the dead fish were dying of, and then all sorts of other mineral deposits, and things like that now that it's not underwater win comes through and craze these dust storms that are kicking these things up and blowing them across the whole region. Okay and spreading all of the contaminates that are within that ever were so people in the area pretty much everybody who lives in this entire basin has asthma and they think it's a direct correlation to that effect, and it's become such an issue that in two thousand and twelve there was a big enough dust. Storm that blew over the mountains and into la and in la they were people could smell the dead fish and the rotten eggs now and la in two thousand and twelve after that. Storm and geologists believe that if this continues to recede, those events will be more and more common and people in san, diego and la will experience to that pretty regularly with these storms that all those dust froms over the mountain and five thousand dollar rent and smelling dead fishes in rotten eggs. Yeah that's contaminated, like like a health risk yeah who cares about the health person it's more about like the now yeah. It smells it's bad as stinky, sticky and stinky. So so it's becoming a very environmentally big issue and there's not a lot of ways to fix the problem. Roosy, it's even if you do find the bomb and remove it like it's yeah, it's solved. The yeah image has been done. Yeah it's far beyond repair. At the word happen of those resorts are those still out there. They are alll like ghost towns, so tour stop coming so there's massive ghost towns, and so these are also squatter type. Villages because sees resorts were like ridiculous, yeah yeah exactly and there so those have become like squatter towns as well. So you have slab city as like one of the more famous ones, but this whole region is like just doted, with these squatter villages of old. What used to be resort towns that are now places where the down tondo and homeless populations end up just kind of squattin, yeah and surviving out there and building crazy, like a lot of them, are building these crazy buildings out of like paletot and stuff like that, but they're surviving out there one interesting little side bar the. If you ever played granted otto five, the desert area r. This is the desert side of the map is the salt and sea and the towns that surround it. They have salvation mountain in the game. They have the the makeshift slab city out there. So all of this is in granted thought a five. So that's interest is rated him yeah. If you swim to the bottom of it, there's a nuke. Well, i actually think that if you sing to the otom of it there's a uf- i don't remember, but there's something o the real yeah well now at a drop drop of water. Yeah pole, ten, your eye o rough, so there's been a lot of proposals on how to solve the problem, a including my personal favorite of just building another lake. That's a horse shoe that raps around the top of the lake that they could use defeat it. And then what, if hear me out what? If we just you know, did it again, but around it it's like a little. It's like a little water hug. Have you seen the neck pillows? What if we is like put a gigage water, lak, no hello, yeah! So here's he that's how all of these solutions were received as, like that's a really big his idea or yeah. It's way too expensive like right, hundreds of millions of dollars. It's not billions of dollars. Tost off this profit, do what right yeah to just make this less of an environmental resource. This problem off till later yeah, pretty much so the closest it got to getting solved was they were going to build a series of canals out to the gulf of california, so this could have an outflow. So that way it won't be just standing water, basically and eventually over time it would all wash away, but that kind of helps solve that problem and then they could treat the land around it and they were close to getting that as a three hundred fifty million dollar proposal they're close to getting that, but the proposal passed through it passed and they began construction in two thousand and seven, which then the great recession, and so it was never finished. So this still, the problem still has n't been solved. Nobody's actually ever been able to fix it and there's been multiple attempt. Since this, but it just it, hasn't, been fixed, it's getting salt here and saltier fish are dying, debt left and right, it's. It is radioactive like literally radioactive and to make matters even worse. This is its right on top of the sanies fault and it's two hundred feet below sea level. So if the bomb goes off well, here's what's right on top of that fault! Well, that is true. I haven't heard anybody say that, but that's that's true. I don't know if that would be a problem, but probably it would problemy from problem. What significant is they have like earthquake storms here, where it's like just repetitive earthquakes, because it's so close to the fault? Oh s like they have these bouts of earthquakes. They also have. It is so close to the lava shelf that there's parts of it where it's so hot that the earth just turns into these mud. Volcanoes they're, like these gray mud volcanoes, where they just like the mud, boils over and just piles up and creates these things that look like salvation mountain, like multiple stories tall, just molten mud, weirdest thing, it's a weird place so and the water is five point: two percent salt right yeah. So everyone there does have the salt wife sticker a tal. You super start, it's part of the it's part of it goes in with it yeah. You know so yeah. So it's it's drying up. It's expected by the year three thousand to be gone. They think it's going to completely evaporate, but that won't be the co. The pros brothers. Basically, we've been to the year three thousand de now much as change. I say the sultan see where they live on a water and there's no nokes down here. So they know that's. They didn't mention a nuke in the sunday i feel like they were a say what a said something if it was there yeah. So there's there are people campain trying to fix this, but even if it drives up, it's still a massive problem, because now you have all that radioactive contaminated dust. H, that's going to be blowing around that valley and then into the greater cities across of california and arizona and nevada and new mexico and mexico. It's it was going to become a pretty pretty major problem if something isn't done about it. But what i love the most about this is that the california parks department is attempting to revitalize the perception of the saltensee still smells like righting still so bad honestly. She smells like rotten an still covered in dead fish. If you got coven, you can't smell, but then it's great here's the thing. If you go to one of their park, shelters in the salency area today, there's still will be an attendant there and they will give you a tour that ends with a film and the film talks about the health benefits about bathing. And it's one of those reels. It's a guy tra, yes yeah, but no. They literally talk about the health benefits of bathing in the sultans and how good it is for your skin, which is anybody with a brain, would say, i'm not getting in that water, but they make all this reiteration about. Your scheme will be gtana in la your skins, got yeah yeah, you're, tired of being pale. What about me alila so this? What was it like the in where they would rub it on their teeth right, because it makes their teeth glow when they were working with like nuclear weapons? Oh and they would eram, they would put stuff on their teeth. That's so weird mes it making like glow in the dark kind of yeah it made him seem bright and stuff. That's crazy! Yeah! I haven't heard of that. That's nuts little non trivia. This was actually contributing factor to the construction of the hoover dam because it slowed the flow of water into the salton sea because they wanted it to evaporate. Originally lover dan was really built for power and to reroute the colorado somewhere else, but this was a contributing fact that they said hey. This would help with that problem. As well, so that's this part of why the hoover dam is there but yeah, so this at on see one of the craziest places ever because you know it's a nucas site, a tours trap and a see that's literally falling apart and it's the fifth time. This has happened that it's grown and evaporated over the past third thirteen hundred years, because i just keeps happening in history. This is just the first time that we did it and then we made it way worse and we were like that's a problem that keeps happening, but you know we. What have we made it a lot worse, that's i mean i feel like that's how american government walks and everything yeah things are pretty bad here. It would be a shame if something happened. If you shame, if it was way worse than that, shame of something you know we just ruined it more, we could make this was kind of how it goes, though it's like this is already bad. I mean how you know, i mean you know we're not hurting it or not, yeah we're just making it a little more interesting. You know that is interesting, yeah, so that's connected to slab city yeah, it's right next to slab city. It's all the same area! This i mean it's in the same desert that burning man and cotil happen at so i mean, if you ever smell ronan eggs, a burning manorite la it's, the lake, wow yeah, so yiks, that's a the sultan sea man, wow yeah, an a that bombs not going to explode. Why not? Well i'm just thinking that if it did like all the stuff is so like worn down and everything yeah all it would do is, and you would just hear o her anyway, i trying to fit of. I o

Fans of the Things I Learned Last Night podcast know that the United States has made some missteps over the years. However, everything we’ve discussed pales in comparison to the colossal failure that is the Salton Sea, California. This story has everything; capitalism, floods of biblical proportion, tourist traps, environmental disasters, and nuclear bombs. Yeah, of course, there are nukes in this story. Why not? We can’t even begin to overplay how unreal every step in this strange lake’s journey truly is. This is the bizarre tale of the incredible Salton Sea.

What is the Salton Sea

The Salton Sea is a body of water, only about 40 feet deep at the deepest point, in southern California. The sea is located roughly 100 miles outside of both San Diego and Los Angeles and sits only 50 miles from the US/Mexico Border. The dessert it sits within, also known as the Salton trough, is the second-lowest point in the continental United States and one of the hottest places in the US. The sea itself has gone through periods of extreme prosperity and extreme drought throughout history. Many years before human life dominated the Americas the sea had cycled between dry lake bed and a vast lively body of water.

How can a Sea be accidental?

Oh, are we glad that you asked! By the time the state of California had been established the region was in a period of drought. In fact, the sea was completely dry. At the heart of the dry lake bed stood a city with its namesake, Salton City. In the early 1900s, investors saw an opportunity in the Salton Trough. It was a massive plot of land that could be used for farming. However, since it was a desert, water would need to be rerouted into the valley.

Luckily for investors, the Colorado River flowed not far from the Salton Trough. Furthermore, the state of California had already been discussing the issue of water in southern California. One possible solution was to reroute the Colorado river and bring water to the arid region. This is precisely what happened and the Colorado began to be terraformed to send water to the southern end of California. The Hoover Dam was constructed, in part, to bring water to the farms that would one day dot the Salton Trough.

Floods of Biblical Proporsions

Needless to say, rerouting a river like the Colorado is not a simple task. Numerous engineering challenges come with such a massive undertaking. In 1905 those challenges reach a fever pitch when snowmelt and above-average rainfall caused the Colorado to swell. The swelling caused flooding along the artificial canals and created two new rivers. These rivers both ran directly into the heart of the Salton Trough. Initially, engineers believed that these rivers would dry up quickly and we’re of no real concern. However, after 2 years of incessant flooding, the waters submerged 343 sq. miles in about 40 feet of water.

The Salton Sea, California from space
A view of the giant man-made Salton Sea, California from Space
Image courtesy of NASA

Despite numerous attempts to stop the flooding, the waters raged on. One attempt, by the Southern Pacific Railroad which had an operation in the town of Salton, included pouring excess amounts of earth into the rivers to create a dam. Their efforts were in vain. The waters flowed over the earth no matter how high they piled it. Eventually, this work to stop the flow of water had created a waterfall that stood nearly 100 feet high.

New Life to the Salton Sea

The massive new body of water brought new life in abundance to the once arid climate. Fish swam from the Colorado and populated the waters. Birds flocked from far-off lands in hopes of benefiting from the new fish habitat. Greenery and farms began sprouting up along the coasts of the sea. The new greenery brought wildlife down from the mountains into the former desert. This apparent ecological disaster had brought a new sense of life and abundance to the Salton Trough.

Tourism Booms

The Salton Sea was a very young body of water. Furthermore, it sat in what used to be a very sandy desert. So, it immediately was lined with beautiful sandy beaches. The size of the sea meant that from most points along the man-made sea the other end was not visible. The waters were also notably calm, meaning boating would be great in the Salton.

Seeing yet another opportunity in the region, investors began lining the shorelines with resorts and hotels. The state of California established parks. Within just a few years it had become a tourist destination that people from around the world would flock to for good boating, good beaches, and unreal fishing. The investors in the area had pumped an extreme amount of fish into the Salton Sea to spur tourism. It is rumored that fishing was so good that anglers didn’t even need to bait their hooks.

The Military Gets Involved

If investors can find an opportunity somewhere then you better believe the military can too. That is exactly what happened with the Salton Sea. Before World War II, the shorelines of the sea were dotted with bases from all major branches of the military. The sea offered a safe landlocked body of water on which training operations could occur. These operations include bomber target practice. At the time, the US did not possess missile technology. Well, at that time, no one did. All bombing operations had to be conducted by dropping the payload from a plane. The sea was a good safe place to practice hitting targets.

Nuclear Target Practice

Naturally, as the Manhattan Project reached its culmination target practice with the mammoth bombs had to be conducted. The atomic bombs were going to be a challenge to drop because of their size and explosive potential. Pilots were going to need to drop these bombs from extreme heights and pull an almost perfect u-turn to get out of the blast radius in a matter of seconds. The Salton Sea became the test drop zone for the bombers that would drop the fat man and little boy bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The bombs that were dropped in the saltwater lake were not live bombs. They were replicas of the nukes filled with concrete rather than explosives to simulate the weight and strength of the bombs. Still, dropping steel encased concrete balls from such massive heights would leave 15-foot craters in the ground if they missed. And they did miss on numerous occasions. The beach became lined with craters from bombs that missed the targets. Regularly military bulldozers would rush to these craters to recover the test bomb and bury the evidence.

Cold War Nukes and the Salton Sea

Early in the Cold War, Russia possessed ICBM’s (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles), which far predated the United States’ possession of such technology. The Russian technology meant that they could swiftly engage in a nuclear war with the US.

The fear of nuclear war meant that the test bombings of the Salton Sea became even more common. It was just a matter of time before something went wrong. On at least one occasion the military mixed up their live nuclear bombs with their dummy bombs and loaded a bomber for target practice. Today, thanks to a disclosure made by a freedom of information act, we have a record of one such incident in which the live nuke dropped into the Salton Sea was never found. Even though the bomb did not detonate, one must assume that the chemical properties of the water have slowly been degrading the steel casing of the device and leaking radioactive materials into the sea.

The Decline of the Salton Sea

Today the Salton Sea is in serious trouble. The above-mentioned potential nuclear disaster is likely the least of the lake’s worries though. Since the sea has been fed by runoff for over 100 years and it has no outbound water flow the water has slowly transitioned from a freshwater body to a saltwater body. This change limited the possibility for much of the freshwater life that had migrated to the sea. However, the salt levels have just kept increasing and much of the life that was prevalent is dying off in mass die-off events.

Bird and sea life have been in rapid decline for decades. Starting in the ’70s, at seemingly regular intervals, the shores would suddenly be lined with thousands of fish and bird carcasses. The salt caused the death of underwater plant life and the birth of massive algae blooms which further proliferated die-off events. Birds began migrating away from the sea as the fish died off from disease.

Decrease in Salton Sea Levels

Rerouting of the rivers that fed the river for local farm irrigation caused water levels in the Salton Sea to rapidly decrease. The decrease is so noteworthy that all the docks built during the tourism boom are now completely on land. Also, those resort towns are now almost completely abandoned. Small communities of squatters are all the human life that proliferates in the region. Due to the rapid change in salt levels and decrease in water levels, most scientists agree that the lake will dry up again with the next 100 years.

The problems continue in that the sands under the lake bed are now toxic due to the number of chemicals from the disease, salt, and likely the bombs dropped into the sea. As the waters dry the sands are kicked into the atmosphere and are causing further problems to those still living in the valley.


The Salton Sea was an accident. At first, it seemed like a happy accident, in the words of Bob Ross. Over time, however, it became clear that it would become an even greater problem than anyone first imagined. The state of California is now dealing with ecological problems that are accompanying the decline of the Salton Sea. The problems are not limited to the valley. Toxic dust clouds from the dried-up lake bed have traveled as far as Los Angeles polluting the air and leaving a stench of dead fish in the city. There have been a few proposals to solve the problems, but it is not clear if they will pass into viability. Watch or listen to this episode of the Things I Learned Last Night Podcast for more on these proposals and more oddities about this incredible man-made ocean.

Learn more about the social structure of Slab City and the interesting different locations across the town in this week’s episode of Things I Learned Last Night. Things I Learned Last Night is an educational comedy podcast where best friends Jaron Myers and Tim Stone talk about random topics and have fun all along the way. If you like learning, and laughing a whole lot while you do, then you’ll love TILLN. Watch or listen to this episode right now!



Slab City

The Salton Sea Part 1


Slab City, California – Wikipedia

Salton Sea – Wikipedia

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