500-Degree Water

Not by Fire but by Ice


 Updated 29 August 2005      

Hydrothermal vents pumping 500-degree water into Arctic Ocean
– Aug 20, 2005 - Researchers have discovered the northernmost hydrothermal
vents in the world along the Mohns Ridge in the Arctic Ocean . "I've seen a lot of
hydrothermal systems all over the world's oceans," said Adam Schultz, a
geophysicist from Oregon State University ’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric
Sciences," and these Arctic fields are spectacular."

"We found two large high-temperature fields and as we explored them, we would
come upon a large mound of chimneys with superheated water jetting out of them,"
Schultz said. "Then in the distance, we'd see another mound and then beyond that,
another one, and so on." Temperatures in one field reached as high as 260 degrees C (500F). Temperatures may have approached 300C (572F) in the second field. "

 The chimneys were so dense that it was difficult in some areas to get the ROV
(remotely operated vehicle) in there," Pedersen said. "In fact, we got the ROV cable stuck on one of them. It almost melted." In fact, the thermometer did melt.

 The vents had been superheated sufficiently to have boiled - even at the enormous
pressures of the deep seafloor. "This is typical of seawater that has encountered hot magma at depth beneath the seafloor, then vents out through smoker chimneys," Schultz pointed out. The vent fields were discovered at depths of 500 to 700 meters.

 The vent fields are full of life, says marine geologist Rolf Pedersen of the University of Bergen , who led the expedition. "There were huge numbers of chimneys - 30, 40, 50 or more," Pedersen said. Shrimp, anemones and bacterial mats dominated the animal life at the site. The researchers also found a type of tubeworm on the vent structures - an important discovery, because tubeworms had previously only been observed in Pacific Ocean vent fields.

Finding tubeworms "would be like finding tigers in Africa ," said Jon Copley, a deep-sea biologist at the UK 's National Oceanography Centre in Southampton .

The scientists believe there are additional vents fields to discover.

 See also: http://www.interridge.org /sciencewriteratsea/Norway2005/index.html





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