Black smokers: hydrothermal vents in the abyss


February 22, 2013. A team of British marine scientists who study the sea floor near the Caribbean islands, found "amazing" array of submarine hydrothermal vents — the deepest of all open in the world.

Plunging underwater ROV apparatus (PTA) in the Cayman Trench, they sent him to the unexplored area of the seabed at a depth of about 5,000 meters.

On transmitted from the unit to board Video footage scientists research vessel spotted narrow spindle-shaped volcanic pipes up to 10 meters high. They are under the pressure of the water spewed black — "a stunning spectacle," as one scholar has admitted.

Pilot controlling the PTA at a depth at which the sunlight does not penetrate and where there is perpetual darkness and cold, says these smokestack pipe remind him of the landscape industrial areas of England.

Vents hydrothermal vents are among the most amazing and mysterious phenomena ocean depths. Their existence did not know anything until the 1970s. Since then, the world has opened about 200 areas of concentration, particularly in the Atlantic and around Antarctica.

At the bottom

By paddle apparatus sets ISIS sensor for measuring the temperature of water.

Use the Rocker apparatus ISIS sets the sensor to measure the temperature of the water.

In the Cayman Trench — the deep rift between two tectonic plates — such sources were first discovered three years ago. One array, known as the Beebe, was considered so far the deepest in the world, but the night before near him found another lying little deeper — to 4,968 m from the sea surface.

Measurements showed that the ejected from the crater of water has a temperature 401 ° C, which makes these sources among the hottest on the planet.

See also: A giant rift in the bottom of the Caribbean Sea

The expedition, sponsored by the British Council for the Study of the Environment, works on board the research vessel "James Cook", named after the English pioneer, who lived in the XVIII century.

PTA called ISIS transmits the ship image is mounted with a high-resolution cameras. Apparatus operates under a giant pressure, light cuts through its powerful spotlights the water column, and the operator holds it gently between the smoking pipes, the largest of which is 10 meters in height.

The head of the research group, Dr. John Copley of the National Oceanography Centre said that the discovery "of these amazing mineral towers" was a complete surprise to them.

"At first we thought that we are in a place where I had been before, — said the scientist told BBC BBC. — But it looked so different that we decided that it had changed. But little by little we realized that it looks different because it is a different place. "

See also: In the Caribbean at a record depth of an underwater volcano found

"The joy of working in the deep ocean is that every time you come across things that are brand new. It teaches us how little we know, and, for a moment, this is not about science, but about the wonders of our planet, about something that has been hidden for so long ", — says Dr Copley.

ISIS was at the site for nearly 24 hours — this is the standard dive time — after which he was raised on the board "James Cook" with the collected samples sea water depth and the living creatures inhabiting it.


"Black smokers"

  • Hydrothermal vents of the mid-ocean ridges — the hot springs located on the ocean floor and mark the axial parts of the mid-ocean ridges.
  • Represent a tubular vent, reaching heights of tens of meters.
  • Highly mineralized hot water, heated to a very high temperature, breaking under the pressure of hundreds of atmospheres.
  • Under the median ridges gown fits most closely to the surface. Sea water enters through cracks in the ocean crust to a considerable depth, where it is heated and the heat is concentrated in the mantle magma chambers. The internal pressure of the superheated water in the cells leads to the release of the jets at the bottom of the sources.
  • Depending on the composition of dissolved minerals distinguish black and white smokers.


Throughout life

For biologists on board deepwater sources are highly unusual and extremely interesting habitats of various living organisms, due to the contrast between the water ejected from the crater, with temeperaturoy about 400 ° C and the surrounding waters are not warmer +4 ° C.

An amazing array of different sea creatures dwell in a narrow layer between these two extremes — in some places the thickness of this layer is fit for no more than a few centimeters.

Deathly pale shrimp swarming flocks of stones seems lost the ability to see, as their eyes are merged together.

Living in hot springs shrimp with dedicated body that does not give her swim to where too hot.

Living in hot springs shrimp with dedicated body that does not give her swim to where too hot.

"We do not think that their eyes are able to see, no matter what it was, but at the back they have a really very unusual body — something like a warning system that sounds an alarm when it gets too hot, which helps them to stay away to hot emissions from the crater and boil alive, "- says Verity Nye, one of the researchers, biologists on board the" James Cook ", which studies the habits of the blind shrimp.

However, she adds, exactly how life works in the deep-water oasis, science does not know, and this has yet to understand.

According to Dr. Copley collected expedition catch lets hope that after laboratory tests on his return home, you can probably be to talk about the discovery of new species of marine animals, such as, for example, white anemones and starfish.

In the coming days are scheduled in the dive unit ISIS, and closer to the end of the year due to arrive here by scientists from Japan and the United States.

Scientists on board the "James Cook" hope over time to find the answers to two key questions: why and how life could evolve in such a patently hostile environment?

Source: BBC Russian Service

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