“The discovery of the first active vents ever found on an ultraslow-spreading ridge is a significant milestone event,” said Jian Lin, leader of a team of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists who participated in a Chinese expedition to the remote Southwest Indian Ridge in the Indian Ocean in February and March.
Since deep-sea hydrothermal vents were first discovered 30 years ago in the Pacific Ocean, scientists have studied them all along the Mid-Ocean Ridge, a 40,000-mile-long mountain range that zigzags through the middle of the world’s ocean basins like a giant zipper. The ridge marks the area where the Earth’s giant tectonic plates spreads apart and new ocean crust forms from hot lava rising from deep within Earth’s mantle.
Most studies of the chimney-like vent structures have taken place along ridges in the “fast-spreading” East Pacific Rise (100 to 200 millimeters per year) and the “slow-spreading” Mid-Atlantic Ridge (20 to 40 millimeters per year). Only in recent years have scientists explored “ultraslow-spreading ridges” (less than 20 millimeters per year) in the Arctic and Indian Oceans—remote areas tough to get to, and therefore the least studied.
Scientists initially thought ultraslow-spreading ridges would be too cold to host large hot vents. But in the past decade, some scientists began to hypothesize that the slower a ridge spreads, the fewer vents it would have—but the bigger the vent fields would be.
“This cruise confirmed that hypothesis,” said Lin, a marine geophysicist and U.S. Coordinator of the 20-day expedition aboard the Chinese research vessel Dayang 1. “People have been looking for active hot vents on ultraslow ridges for more than 10 years,” Lin said.
In 2005-06, as part of China’s first around-the-world oceanographic expedition, Lin had sailed as a US chief scientist on Dayang 1 to the Southwest Indian Ridge, where scientists found tantalizing evidence of active hydrothermal venting. They gathered critical data that led them back to the site this year.
During the February-March expedition, the team nailed the discovery with the aid of ABE, WHOI’s Autonomous Benthic Explorer, which has been instrumental in recent years in helping scientists find vents on the bottom of the ocean much quicker than ever before. ABE acts like a robotic deep-sea bloodhound: In a sequence of dives, its sensors “sniff out” clues indicating a plume of fluids emanating from a vent and collect data scientists use to home in on the vent.
ABE also uses sonar to create maps of vent fields and takes photographs about 5 meters above them. ABE snapped 5,000 images of the robust Southwest Indian Ridge vent site, which is among the largest known to date. It is larger than a football field (120 meters by 100 meters).
The discovery was a first for China. “This discovery reflects China’s increasing contribution to ocean science in general, and ridge science in particular,” Lin said.
The China Ocean Mineral Resources R&D Association (COMRA) in Beijing, China, funded the 2005-06 expedition and ABE’s participation in the current one. COMRA, which represents China in the International Seabed Authority, has been exploring the deep sea for mineral resources since the early 1990s.
China is increasing investments in ocean science, Lin said. COMRA’s primary interests lay in the large sulfide deposits created by hydrothermal vents, which are rich in copper, zinc, gold, and other minerals, he said.
“Our Chinese colleagues were the happiest people I’ve ever seen at sea when they brought the first samples aboard,” said Dana Yoerger, scientist in the WHOI Deep Submergence Laboratory and co-designer of ABE, who participated in the expedition. Once ABE pinpointed the site’s exact location, the Chinese team sent down its “TV grab”— a grappling device guided by a television camera—and retrieved a reddish chunk of a vent chimney, Yoerger said.
The researchers outran a tropical cyclone and collected the data they needed in just six days and three ABE dives. “It was the most ruthlessly efficient science we’ve ever done,” said Christopher German, chief scientist of the WHOI-operated National Deep Submergence Facility, who also participated in the expedition. “We had no margin for error.”
The Chinese science party was led by chief scientist Chunhui Tao, a geophysicist at the Second Institute of Oceanography in Hanzhou, China.
“The two international teams worked exceedingly well for this kind of complex operation,” Lin said
Joanne Tromp | EurekAlert!
Receding glaciers in Bolivia leave communities at risk
20.10.2016 | European Geosciences Union
UM researchers study vast carbon residue of ocean life
19.10.2016 | University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences