Exploring Hydrothermal Vents

The discovery of deep-sea vents revolutionized our understanding of ocean chemistry and life processes in the deep ocean, and led to many new questions about the biology, chemistry and geology of hydrothermal processes. These topics were explored on many research cruises in the 1980s, 1990s and to the present. They led to discoveries of new vent areas, the application of deep-sea vent microbial enzymes for industrial and medical uses, and important insights into the relationships between magmatic, volcanic and hydrothermal processes on mid-ocean ridges. Some of the new research was made possible by new deep diving technologies that allowed scientists greater access to the seafloor, and new chemical, biological and mapping sensors that improved the characterization and sampling done at the vents. Hydrothermal vent research continues to be a key area of oceanographic science today.