Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Deepest Volcanic Sea Vents Found; "Like Another World"

Deepest underwater Volcano may harbor unknown creatures!!! NatGeo

Three miles (five kilometers) below the surface of the Caribbean Sea (map), great volcanic chimneys gush subterranean water hot enough to melt lead.

Found via robotic submersibles on April 6, these two-story-tall "black smokers" are the world's deepest known hydrothermal vents, scientists announced from aboard a research ship Sunday.

"It was like wandering across the surface of another world," geochemist Bramley Murton, speaking in a press statement, said of steering a submersible around the record-breaking volcanic vents.

"The rainbow hues of the mineral spires and the fluorescent blues of the microbial mats covering them were like nothing I had ever seen before," said Murton, who, like the rest of the team, works with the U.K.'s National Oceanography Centre.

The answer will have to wait. "We've only just started to study the marine life at this site and don't yet have a full picture of it," marine biologist Jon Copley told National Geographic News from aboard the James Cook. "It will then take more work to see how species here relate to those at other vents around the world.

"But once we have those results, these new vents should help to reveal what governs patterns of marine life at deep-sea vents," Copley said. "Those answers should also tell us about patterns of deep ocean life in general—and the deep ocean is our planet's largest habitat.

"Vents are great natural laboratories for understanding such patterns in that vast realm, just as terrestrial islands were for 19th-century naturalists."


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