March 8, 2019
By Thom Hoffman
This spectacular underwater volcano was just explored for the first time by scientists aboard the R/V Falkor. 2000 meters below the surface of the ocean, the “Big Pagoda” hydrothermal vent is massive: 30m tall and 23m wide.
The liquid in these upside down pools is hydrothermal vent fluid. Up to 320 degrees in temperature, it is a “soup” of harsh chemicals (including sulfur and metals) that allows life to thrive in a deep dark ocean. The mineral-rich, hot fluids burst out of the seafloor, and then precipitate in the frigid ocean water, creating chimney structures. The mirror is a mirage effect where cold saltwater and hot vent fluids refract light at different angles.
One theory is that that life on Earth began around hydrothermal vents, which could also be a possibility on other planets and moons too. The novel organisms that are thriving in these extreme places surely have much to teach us about our own changing environment. We are sampling the rocks, fluid, sediments, and biology here to try and unravel these #MicrobialMysteries.
This post was originally published in the Schmidt Ocean Institute blog.