The expedition to the lost world

March 29, 2012 19:42

Off the coast of Antarctica, at a depth of 2.4 thousand meters, discovered previously unknown anomalous zone, which the scientists call "the lost world."

South Georgia Island, much of which is covered with ice and snow, is in dangerous latitudes where frequent meetings with icebergs


Antarctica and the surrounding islands, and it still remains the least understood by geographic region of the world. Yet scientists gradually, one by one, reveal its secrets.

In 1999, on the seabed off the coast of South Georgia with the instruments were found deep hot springs. This very island, much of which is covered with ice and snow, is in dangerous latitudes where frequent meetings with icebergs. To the west and south it rises Southern Antilles basin with depths of more than 7.7 million meters, and to the east stretches the South Sandwich Trench, where the level of the seabed than 8 thousand meters Here, at the bottom, near the shores of the island are volcanic vents, of which, in fact, heat is generated.

It was assumed that there, under a layer of icy Antarctic waters can live fauna unknown to science. To test this version, is questionable, required a full-scale expedition, equipped with expensive equipment for underwater exploration. To develop it took more than ten years.

And in January 2010, when the southern hemisphere was at the height of summer, to the marked area in the Southern Ocean expedition arrived British scientists aboard the oceanographic vessel "James Cook". (An independent Southern Ocean in the scientific literature as surrounding Antarctica southern Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans.)

The expedition included researchers from the Universities of Oxford and Southampton and the British Antarctic Survey. Led the scientific program of the professor of zoology at Oxford University, Alex Rogers.

As of that moment, as it should be mentioned among the many oceanographers belief prevailed that the deep water at such latitudes should be poor in life. But the first picture he had sent on board remote-controlled submersible ROV with a depth of about 2.4 million meters, exceeded all expectations.

From volcanic vents, fissures in the sea floor proceeded hot clubs hydrogen sulfide. As it was established later, the temperature hydrothermal sources reached 362 degrees Celsius. In this realm of eternal darkness did not penetrate even a ray of sunshine. All the more surprising was the world of marine organisms, which opened before the eyes of oceanographers.

Rogers admitted: "We were absolutely amazed when they saw these animal communities, because they are very different from the other inhabitants of the hot springs on the ocean floor." The professor described the overall picture: "We have been unexplored, hot and dark" lost world. " He added: "We have the feeling that we see being flown like from another planet."

Inhabitants volcanic vents

Hydrothermal vents, chimneys, surrounded by living carpets of various concentrations of shellfish, which are, in fact, home to huge colonies of unusual species of crab-yeti. Their claws and lower abdominal area was covered with long whitish hairs or bristles. On some parts of the seabed communities of these crabs were going up to 600 individuals per square meter!

Among themselves scientists jokingly dubbed this kind of "crab Hoffa." Powerful, covered with thick hairs shell animal reminded them torso American actor David Hesselhoffa known for the TV series "Baywatch", "Escape" and others. But seriously, it was a mystery, what is eat crabs, because the rocky seabed lacking any vegetation.

Subsequent observations have shown that crabs grown hairs on their myriad of bacteria, which fed. In turn, the bacteria produce energy for growth from the splitting of chemicals released from the cracks, especially hydrogen sulfide.

And that very much to the point of fiction: crabs behaved quite "reasonable"! They took care of the growth of the bacteria with the same diligence as a summer resident of cultivating his garden! This is reflected in the fact that the crabs periodically shaking claws. Their undulating improved ventilation in bacterial colonies, providing there a better flow of chemicals. Such a pragmatic life strategy in the world of deep-sea inhabitants scientists to watch before this was not possible.

However, the peaceful existence of the yeti crabs threaten many dangers. At the edges of the hot springs lived predatory starfish seven new species, pale octopus, nicknamed "ghost octopus", and other marine animals. Raptors raided settlement colony of crabs, using them as food.

Yet the discovery of "lost world" asked scientists and other types of puzzles. Professor Rogers has formulated this as follows: "The fact that we have not found many common species, is almost as surprising as the fact that it was found. Many species of animals, such as tubular marine worms, deep mussels, crabs, other species, shrimp, previously found by our colleagues in hydrothermal vents in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans, here in the Southern Ocean, no. " The implication is that the Southern Ocean is a kind of barrier, a natural filter, which prevents the penetration of representatives of the "foreign" marine fauna.

SURPRISES icy continent

This was the first large-scale study of underwater hot springs near Antarctica.

When he returned from the expedition, scientists studied more than a year samples collected and processed the results.

According to them, the Antarctic "lost world" gives a very clear idea of the conditions under which life could have arisen on some planets and their satellites, in particular, on Jupiter — Europe. It is with this heavenly body, scientists draw an analogy in this case.

It was also confirmed the hypothesis that the Southern Ocean, acting as a barrier to entry into its waters representatives "strange" fauna, served at the same time as a gateway to other oceans of the world, helping to spread it originated marine organisms.

This "lost world" — a good example of a closed ecological system of small, quite, however, to maintain a self-sustaining populations of its inhabitants for countless of generations.

So, it is possible that similar-scale ecosystems are still hidden from the human eye, can operate in other parts of the world, including in the world above. In short, the science, at least in the face of British biologists and their supporters do not deny the possibility of the existence of the world closed, dominated by a limited number of "lost world", such as the one that came to life once the pen of Conan Doyle.

The study of "hot peace" Antarctica has just begun. Oceanographers have no doubt that they are waiting for new, even more amazing discoveries. However, icebound Antarctica surprises not only to biologists.

Yeti crabs grown hairs on their myriad bacteria, which eat

In 2005, there was found a network of underground rivers, huge caves connecting and representing an endless maze. Geologists, in turn, believe that the subsoil icy continent fraught with huge deposits of minerals, especially oil. It is projected that we will hear important news from the sixth to the mainland this year.

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