The Cayman Trough is the world's deepest undersea volcanic rift, running across the seafloor of the Caribbean. The pressure three miles deep at the bottom of the Trough - 500 times normal atmospheric pressure - is equivalent to the weight of a large family car pushing down on every square inch of the creatures that live there, and on the undersea vehicles that the scientists used to reveal this extreme environment. The researchers will now compare the marine life in the abyss of the Cayman Trough with that known from other deep-sea vents, to understand the web of life throughout the deep ocean. The team will also study the chemistry of the hot water gushing from the vents, and the geology of the undersea volcanoes where these vents are found, to understand the fundamental geological and geochemical processes that shape our world.
"We hope our discovery will yield new insights into biogeochemically important elements in one of the most extreme naturally occurring environments on our planet," says geochemist Doug Connelly of the NOC, who is the Principal Scientist of the expedition.
"It was like wandering across the surface of another world," says geologist Bramley Murton of the NOC, who piloted the HyBIS underwater vehicle around the world's deepest volcanic vents for the first time. "The rainbow hues of the mineral spires and the fluorescent blues of the microbial mats covering them were like nothing I had ever seen before."
"Our multidisciplinary approach - which brings together physics, chemistry, geology and biology with state-of-the-art underwater technology - has allowed us to find deep-sea vents more quickly than ever before," adds o
|Contact: Dr. Rory Howlett|
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK)