Welcome to Discovering Hydrothermal Vents!

In 1977, scientists made a stunning discovery on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean that forever changed our understanding of planet Earth and life on it. They found seafloor vents gushing shimmering, warm, mineral-rich fluids into the cold, dark depths. And, to their complete surprise, they found that the vents were brimming with extraordinary, unexpected life.

The search for hydrothermal vents at the seafloor mobilized scientists, engineers, crews, ships, and equipment from many institutions worldwide. Intrigued by early clues, they followed a trail of discovery that led to a scientific revolution. With persistence and ingenuity, they overcame formidable barriers to accomplish a technical and scientific feat.

Information in this module lets you dive into how deep-sea hydrothermal vents were discovered at the Galápagos Rift and the many areas around the globe where vents have been found and studied since then. Since 1977, many vent sites have been discovered at mid-ocean ridges in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. There are also tantalizing clues about hydrothermal vents underneath the Arctic ice.

We retell the astonishing and often dramatic story of how the vents and their spectacular animal communities were discovered, how these discoveries have revolutionized scientific thinking, and the considerable technical and scientific research that has been done up to the present in this exciting field of oceanography.

Dive into hydrothermal vents and explore their unique geology, chemistry and biology.

Hydrothermal vents host life forms that exist nowhere else on earth, and form in places where there is volcanic activity, such as along the Mid-Ocean Ridge. Watch the videos to immerse yourself in this unique environment.

Watch the videos »

Hydrothermal vents are one of the most spectacular features on the seafloor. Over the years, scientists have photographed vents from the Indian Ocean, to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge to the East Pacific Rise.