Hydrothermal Vents


Carbon Dioxide Pools Discovered in Aegean Sea

The waters off Greece’s Santorini are the site of newly discovered opalescent pools forming at 250 meters depth. The interconnected series of meandering, iridescent white pools contain high concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and may hold answers to questions related to deepsea carbon storage as well as provide a means of monitoring the volcano for future eruptions.

Read More

Making Organic Molecules in Hydrothermal Vents in the Absence of Life

In 2009, scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution embarked on a NASA-funded mission to the Mid-Cayman Rise in the Caribbean, in search of a type of deep-sea hot-spring or hydrothermal vent that they believed held clues to the search for life on other planets. They were looking for a site with a venting process that produces a lot of hydrogen because of the potential it holds for the chemical, or abiotic, creation of organic molecules like methane – possible precursors to the prebiotic compounds from which life on Earth emerged.   

For more than a decade, the scientific community has postulated that in such an environment, methane and other organic compounds could be spontaneously produced by chemical reactions between hydrogen from the vent fluid and carbon dioxide (CO2).  The theory made perfect sense, but showing that it happened in nature was challenging.

Now we know why:  an analysis of the vent fluid chemistry proves that for some organic compounds, it doesn’t happen that way.

New research by geochemists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, published June 8 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to show that methane formation does not occur during the relatively quick fluid circulation process, despite extraordinarily high hydrogen contents in the waters.  While the methane in the Von Damm vent system they studied was produced through chemical reactions (abiotically), it was produced on geologic time scales deep beneath the seafloor and independent of the venting process. Their research further reveals that another organic abiotic compound is formed during the vent circulation process at adjacent lower temperature, higher pH vents, but reaction rates are too slow to completely reduce the carbon all the way to methane.

Read More

Study Finds Deep Ocean is Source of Dissolved Iron in Central Pacific

A new study led by scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) points to the deep ocean as a major source of dissolved iron in the central Pacific Ocean. This finding highlights the vital role ocean mixing plays in determining whether deep sources of iron reach the surface-dwelling life that need it to survive.

Read More

Bringing a Lab to the Seafloor

Bringing a Lab to the Seafloor

Scientists can’t really know if new oceanographic instruments will really work until they try them in actual conditions in the real ocean. In this case, the rubber hit the road at the bottom of the sea.

Read More

Long-Distance Larvae Speed to New Undersea Vent Homes

Working in a rare, ?natural seafloor laboratory? of hydrothermal vents that had just been rocked by a volcanic eruption, scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and other institutions have discovered what they believe is an undersea superhighway carrying tiny life forms unprecedented distances to inhabit the post-eruption site.

Read More

Gar Secrist

Gar Secrist

Gar Secrist says that he spent his summer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) working on “sandwiches.” His weren’t ordered…

Read More