Seafloor & Below


International Expedition to the Top of the World May Hold Clues To Formation of Earth’s Crust

When the new U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker HEALY departs Tromso, Norway, July 31 for a two-month cruise across the Arctic Ocean, scientists won’t be studying the ice cap but the seafloor far below. Their focus will be the Gakkel Ridge, three miles beneath the ocean surface, the slowest spreading ridge on earth. It is a window into the earth’s interior scientists hope will help fill a gap in their knowledge of how the earth’s crust forms.

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Colonizing The Deep Sea: WHOI Scientist Helps Find Answers to Hydrothermal Vent Puzzle

For nearly 25 years, scientists have wondered how giant red-tipped tubeworms and other exotic marine life found at hydrothermal vents on the deep sea floor get from place to place and how long their larva survive in a cold, eternally dark place. Now Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Biologist Lauren Mullineaux and colleagues have helped answer those questions.

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Scientists Release First Images of Hydrothermal Vents Found in the Indian Ocean

Scientists exploring a remote area of the central Indian Ocean seafloor two and one-half miles deep have found animals that look like fuzzy snowballs and chimney-like structures two stories tall spewing super-heated water full of toxic metals. The findings, released on the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Dive and Discover Web site (http://www.divediscover.whoi.edu/) were made at the start of a month-long expedition funded by the National Science Foundation. Images and data from the seafloor may provide critical answers to long standing questions about the diversity of life in the deep sea, how animals move from place to place and how the ocean crust is changing. A Japanese team is reported to have discovered hydrothermal vents in the Indian Ocean last fall, but little information has been publicly available.

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Scientists Find Active Underwater Volcano East of Samoa

Marine geologists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) have confirmed the existence of an active underwater volcano east of Samoa. The volcano, recently named VailuluA?u by local students, is located about 28 miles east of TaA?u Island and rises more than 16,400 feet from the seafloor to within 2,000 feet of the ocean surface. The scientists found billowing “smoggy” water in the summit and extending out for more than five miles.

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Active 14,000 Foot Submarine Volcano Found near Samoa in South Pacific

An active volcano rising more than 4,300 meters (over 14,100 feet) from the ocean floor in the Samoa Islands has been discovered by a team of U.S. scientists, providing more evidence to the scientific debate over the formation of hot spot island chains. The volcano, more than 35 kilometers (about 22 miles) across at its base, rises to within 600 meters (about 2,000 feet) of the surface; its peak is marked by a circular caldera some two kilometers (over 1 mile) across and 400 meters (1,300 feet) deep. It is similar in size to Mt. Whitney in California, the largest mountain in the contiguous 48 U.S. states.

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The Cauldron Beneath the Seafloor

The Cauldron Beneath the Seafloor

Just over 20 years ago, scientists exploring the mid-ocean ridge system first made the spectacular discovery of black smokers—hydrothermal chimneys made of metal sulfide minerals that vigorously discharge hot, dark, particulate-laden fluids into the ocean.

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Hitting the Hotspots

Hitting the Hotspots

The great volcanic mid-ocean ridge system stretches continuously around the globe for 60,000 kilometers, nearly all of it hidden beneath the world’s oceans.

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Life on the Seafloor and Elsewhere in the Solar System

Life on the Seafloor and Elsewhere in the Solar System

The RIDGE program (Ridge Inter-Disciplinary Globe Experiments) was sharply focused on the global spreading center system, but the program’s goals were broadly defined. RIDGE was designed to explore the causes, consequences, and linkages associated with the physical, chemical, and biological processes that transfer mass and energy from the interior to the surface of the planet along the mid-ocean ridges.

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ALISS in Wonderland

ALISS in Wonderland

In 1985, Cindy Van Dover, then a graduate student in biology in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program, discovered a novel light-sensing organ on a unique species of shrimp that lives at high-temperature, black smoker chimneys on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. If this photoreceptor were indeed some sort of primitive “eye,” the question instantly arose: At depths of some 3,600 meters, where sunlight cannot penetrate, what are these shrimp looking at? The search for a source of light in deep-sea hydrothermal environments began.

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How to Build a Black Smoker Chimney

How to Build a Black Smoker Chimney

Diving along the mid-ocean ridge at 21°N on the East Pacific Rise, scientists within the deep submersible Alvin peered through their tiny portholes two decades ago to see an astonishing sight: Clouds of billowing black “smoke” rising rapidly from the tops of tall rocky “chimneys.”

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The Big MELT

The Big MELT

More than 95 percent of the earth’s volcanic magma is generated beneath the seafloor at mid-ocean ridges.

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Exploring The Global Mid-Ocean Ridge

Exploring The Global Mid-Ocean Ridge

There is a natural tendency in scientific investigations for increased specialization. Most important advances are made by narrowing focus and building on the broad foundation of earlier, more general research.

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