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British scientists discover deepest known undersea volcanic vents 12 April 2010

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First photograph of the world's deepest known 'black smoker' vent, erupting water hot enough to melt lead, 3.1 miles deep on the ocean floor (National Oceanography Centre)
First photograph of the world’s deepest known ‘black smoker’ vent, erupting water hot enough to melt lead, 3.1 miles deep on the ocean floor (National Oceanography Centre).

Scientists from the UK’s National Oceanography Centre (NOC) have discovered the deepest volcanic vents so far known, 5000 metres below the surface of the Caribbean Sea. The vents are located in the Cayman Trough in the western Caribbean, which reaches a maximum depth of 7,500 metres. Further research will analyse the geology and geochemistry of the vents and the marine life associated with them. NOC geochemist Dough Connelly, Principal Scientist of the expedition, says: ‘We hope our discovery will yield new insights into biogeochemically important elements in one of the most extreme naturally occurring environments on our planet’.

The Cayman Trough expedition, funded by the National Environment Research Council, is based aboard the UK’s new ocean-going research vessel RRS James Cook. For more on the expedition, see our post from August 2008: British scientists to investigate Caribbean deep-sea hydrothermal vents.

News
British scientific expedition discovers world’s deepest known undersea volcanic vents – EurekAlert, 11 April 2010
World’s deepest undersea vents discovered in Caribbean – BBC News, 12 April 2010
World’s deepest known undersea volcanic vents discovered – ScienceDaily, 12 April 2010

Information
National Oceanography Centre – website for the UK’s newly integrated National Oceanography Centre
Cayman Trough expedition – reports from the expedition team

The Volcanism Blog

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Comments

1. Filipe M. Rosas - 12 April 2010

Amazing! I remember back in the mid nineties when I was first taught by my mineralogy professor at UL – Fernando Barriga – about the “lucky strike” field of “black smokers” hydrothermal vents. But those were much shallower, in the Mid Oceanic Ridge (37ºN), and were influenced by the Azores hot spot, with fluid temperatures of about 200-300ºC. I was fascinated by the movies of underwater black “smoke” coming out of chimney-like structures, as a result of ocean water circulation through the oceanic crust rocks. As is often the case with big exciting discoveries, it seems that that was just the beginning!


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