BUTTE, MT - We've all talked about it. We've all fantasized about the different scenarios. We all think we can survive it like that deer who was caught in the "deadly" pools of Yellowstone (who seemed unfazed by the toxic experience). What would actually happen if you went for a swim in the Berkeley Pit? You know, don't. But what if you really, really wanted to?

In all of the "Worst Vacation Ideas Ever," taking a dip in Butte's infamous Berkeley Pit might just be number one, with getting an invite to Diddy's mansion party being a close second. Everyone, from this source to this one, says this is a bad idea. However, let's say someone couldn't resist hopping over the fence and making a run for the pit: what would happen? Well, I contacted some sources at the organization PitWatch—who is the official resource for everything Berkeley Pit—for some concrete, reliable information on my very stupid question.

Using information exclusively provided to me by PitWatch, I wrote a fictional scenario where our friend Bob decides to go for a swim in Butte's famous pit.

Bob, a seasoned adventurer whose daily life typically involves less deadly pursuits, recently found himself wondering what it would be like to swim in the Berkeley Pit. (Real quick, for those who may be slightly unfamiliar, the Berkeley Pit is a former copper mine turned environmental cautionary tale here in Butte, Montana. It is also the fourth largest manmade hole in the world.)

By the way, "the water in the pit is acidic due to a natural reaction between the water, oxygen, and mineralization in the exposed former pit mine walls and underground workings," PitWatch official Abby Peltomaa tells me.  It's the sort of place you wouldn't be surprised to find out that it was the birthplace of your childhood bully.

Anyhoo, on a nice, warm day, prepared with nothing but his wits and a concerning absence of common sense, Bob decides to take the plunge. Clad in what he deemed a protective suit (a striped, vintage 1980s pair of trunks found in a yard sale), he approaches the edge of the pit—which, of course, in real life is very inaccessible to the public. Yet observers might mark Bob as either the bravest man in the world, or the dumbest. Time will tell.

As Bob approaches the water, the first thing he notices is—unbelievably—not the surreal beauty of the sunset reflecting off the toxic water, but a tingling sensation that begins in his toes and quickly turns into a painful sensation. This is his first clue that perhaps the Berkeley Pit is not a good swimming destination. Then his skin melts, right? And maybe his organs explode from breathing in toxic air? He'll probably just die immediately, huh?

Nope. I'm sorry to disappoint gore lovers, but Bob would actually experience just some minor skin irritation, Abby Peltomaa tells me. "If inevitably they ingested the water while swimming, that would potentially cause an esophageal burn (think of acid reflux only in the opposite direction). Minor quantities, in other words non-chronic exposure, would likely require flushing with clean water to remedy." So, yeah. Bob would pretty much experience the same thing I do when I go body surfing in the Gulf.

Well then, why don't they just open 'er up then? Because, you silly goose, though there are organisms that are able to endure long-term exposure, humans ain't one of them. "While most living creatures are not able to live (long-term) in the Berkeley Pit, let alone swim, there is a group of organisms that do. Extremophiles are organisms that can live in extreme conditions such as temperatures, acidity, alkalinity, or chemical concentrations likely inhospitable to other living things," Abby was kind enough to throw in.

So there you have it. Sorry to ruin all the fun. I'm still gonna tell people that your skin falls off.

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