Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists Discover First Seafloor Vents on Ultraslow-Spreading Ridge

17.04.2007
Scientists have found one of the largest fields of seafloor vents gushing super-hot, mineral-rich fluids on a mid-ocean ridge that, until now, remained elusive to the ten-year hunt to find them.

“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!
Further information:
http://www.whoi.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Predicting unpredictability: Information theory offers new way to read ice cores
07.12.2016 | Santa Fe Institute

nachricht Sea ice hit record lows in November
07.12.2016 | University of Colorado at Boulder

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Closing the carbon loop

08.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Applicability of dynamic facilitation theory to binary hard disk systems

08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists track chemical and structural evolution of catalytic nanoparticles in 3-D

08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>