New Technology For New Exploration Of Hydrothermal Vents
- New Technology For New Exploration Of Hydrothermal Vents
Woods Hole MA (SPX) Dec 07, 2005
Advances in undersea imaging systems, the development of new
vehicles and instruments, and improved seafloor mapping capabilities
have enabled scientists to explore areas of the deep sea in
unprecedented detail. One such area is the TAG hydrothermal mound in
the North Atlantic Ocean, one of the largest known mineral deposits
on the seafloor.
Rob Reves-Sohn , a geologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institution, will discuss some of the technological advances and
present some recent imagery collected at the TAG hydrothermal vent
during a press conference today at the American Geophysical Union
meeting in San Francisco. TAG, for Trans Atlantic Geotraverse, is on
the Mid-Atlantic Ridge about 1,900 miles east of Miami at 26°8'N and
44°49'W more than two miles below the ocean's surface.
Since hydrothermal vents were discovered in 1977 on the Galapagos
Rift in the eastern Pacific Ocean, vent sites have been found on the
mid-ocean ridge around the world. New sites are found each year,
each with unique animal communities and geological/geochemical
features. TAG was among the first to be found in the North Atlantic
20 years ago.
Using two-dimensional maps produced from data collected by a
research vessel, Reves-Sohn and colleagues produced computer
animations of the TAG site, enabling scientists to view it from
different perspectives. Images of the mound and smokers were taken
by cameras mounted on the three-person submersible Alvin, operated
by WHOI for the American ocean research community.
For centuries, people have mined copper, gold and precious metals on
land from mineral deposits that many believe formed on the ocean
floor. At the TAG vent site, a superheated mixture of seawater and
toxic chemicals hot enough to melt lead billows out of the seafloor.
This fluid, driven by heat from molten magma deep below the earth's
crust, erupts into clouds or plumes that rise nearly 1,000 feet
above the ocean bottom. Chemical reactions occurring as this hot
fluid mixes with cold seawater cause the formation of chimney-like
structures called "black smokers." These freestanding chimneys,
which commonly reach heights of 100 feet or more, contain minerals
similar to those mined on land.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution