Deepest undersea volcanic vents - Caribbean
"black smokers" set world record
Cayman Islands, Caribbean -- A British scientific
aboard the RRS James Cook has discovered the world's
deepest undersea volcanic vents, known as 'black smokers',
3.1 miles (five kilometers) beneath the surface of the Caribbean
in an area known as the Cayman Trough.
Deep-sea vents are undersea springs where water
hot enough to melt lead erupts from slender spires of copper
and iron ore on the ocean floor.
The vents were found 800m (2,600ft) deeper
than any previously discovered.
to the Cayman Trough is being run by Drs Doug Connelly, Jon
Copley, Bramley Murton, Kate Stansfield and Professor Paul
Tyler, all from Southampton, UK.
They used a robot submarine called Autosub6000,
developed by engineers at the National Oceanography Centre
(NOC) in Southampton, to survey the seafloor of the Cayman
Trough in unprecedented detail.
The team then launched another deep-sea
vehicle called HyBIS, developed by team member Murton and
Berkshire-based engineering company Hydro-Lek Ltd, to film
the world's deepest vents for the first time.
"Seeing the world's deepest black-smoker vents
looming out of the darkness was awe-inspiring," says Jon Copley,
a marine biologist at the University of Southampton's School
of Ocean and Earth Science (SOES) based at the NOC and leader
of the overall research program, in a press release. Photo: The expedition team, left to right,
Prof Paul Tyler,
Dr. Bramley Murton,
Dr. Doug Connelly,
Dr. Kate Stansfield and
Dr. Jon Copley.
Photo by NOC
"Superheated water was gushing out of their two-storey
high mineral spires, more than three miles deep beneath the
In the dark, barren waters of the deep sea,
such hydrothermal vents support an array of unique creatures—including
giant tube worms, clams, and crabs—that aren’t found anywhere
else on the planet.
"It was like wandering across the surface of
another world," says geologist Bramley Murton of the NOC,
who piloted the HyBIS underwater vehicle around the world's
deepest volcanic vents for the first time. "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."
The first vents were found three decades
ago in the Pacific and forced scientists to rewrite the rules
of biology because of the immense pressure – up to 500 times
normal atmospheric pressure – experienced by the creatures
Researchers will now compare the marine
life in the Cayman Trough with that from previously discovered
vents to gain a better understanding of life at the bottom
of the ocean.
Subscribe to our RSS
News feed to receive updates. Related world records: