The continuing exploration of the Southern Ocean for deep-sea vents has once again rewarded results, as scientists about the Royal Research Ship James Cook of the National Oceanography Centre have discovered a new set of deep-sea volcanic vents in the frigid southern waters.
This is the fourth discovery made by the team in three years, which goes a long way to suggesting that deep-sea vents are much more prevalent than had been previously assumed.
“When we caught the first glimpse of the vents, the excitement was almost overwhelming,” says Leigh Marsh, a University of Southampton PhD student who was on scientific watch at the time of the discovery.
“We’re finding deep-sea vents more rapidly than ever before,” says expedition leader Professor Paul Tyler of the University of Southampton’s School of Ocean and Earth Science, which is based at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. “And we’re finding some in places other than at mid-ocean ridges, where most have been seen before.”
According to the NOC, “deep-sea vents are hot springs on the seafloor, where mineral-rich water nourishes lush colonies of microbes and deep-sea animals.”
The James Cook crew hope to “understand more about the distribution and evolution of life in the deep ocean, the role that deep-sea vents play in controlling the chemistry of the oceans, and the diversity of microbes that thrive in different conditions beneath the waves.”
If you are interested in following the current voyage that has yielded these most recent results, click here for the James Cook crew’s blog, and you can also follow their expedition and watch them answer questions for schoolchildren on their expedition website.