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Images: Lost City Pumps Life-essential Chemicals at Rates Unseen at Typical Black Smokers

Minerals from hydrothermal vent fluids precipitate to build up hundreds of delicate spires at the base of a tall hydrothermal vent at Lost City. An arm of the remotely operated vehicle Hercules is sampling for gases in the foreground. The two tiny dots (right), which were generated by a laser on the vehicle, are four inches apart and help give scientists a sense of scale. (Photo courtesy of University of Washington, IFE, URI-IAO, NOAA)

Giora Proskurowski is a postdoctoral investigator in the Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

The carbonate structures at the Lost City Field include these spires stretching 90 feet tall. The white, sinuous spine is freshly deposited carbonate material. Added digitally to this image are the remotely operated vehicles Hercules and Argus, which were used to explore the hydrothermal vent field during an expedition. (Photo courtesy Kelley, U of Washington, IFE, URI-IAO, NOAA)

Gases are collected from the top of one of the hydrothermal vents that make up Lost City. This closeup, showing an area of the vent about a foot wide, reveals the delicate texture of newly formed carbonate minerals and ? in the upper right ? filaments of bacteria wafting in the warm vent fluids. As the carbonate ages it becomes hard as concrete, one reason the tallest vent at Lost City has grown to be 18-stories tall. (Photo courtesy University of Washington, IFE, URI-IAO, NOAA)