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Scientists break record by finding northernmost hydrothermal vent field
Date:7/24/2008

picking up heat and minerals until the water vents back into the ocean. The same process created the huge mound of sulfide minerals on which the vents sit. That deposit is about 825 feet in diameter at its base and about 300 feet across on the top and might turn out to be the largest such deposit seen on the seafloor, Lilley said. Additional mapping is needed.

"Given the massive sulfide deposit, the vent field must surely have been active for many thousands of years," he said.

The field has been named Loki's Castle partly because the small chimneys at the site looked like a fantasy castle to the scientists. The Loki part refers to a Norwegian god renowned for trickery. A University of Bergen press release about the discovery said Loki "was an appropriate name for a field that was so difficult to locate."

Indeed this summer's expedition and the pinpointing of the location of the vents earlier this month follows nearly a decade of research. Finding the actual field involved extensive mapping. It also meant sampling to detect warm water and using optical sensors lowered in the ocean to determine the chemistry, both parts that involved Lilley. He said a key sensor was one developed by Ko-ichi Nakamura of the National Institute of Advanced Science and Technology, Japan, that detects reduced chemicals that are in the water as a result of having been processed through a hydrothermal vent.

A remotely operated vehicle was used to finally find the vents. The difficulties of the task are described in an expedition Web diary, see "Day 17: And then there were vents" at http://www.geobio.uib.no/View.aspx?mid=1062&itemid=90&pageid=1093&moduledefid=71.

The area around the vents was alive with microorganisms and animals. Preliminary observations suggest that the ecosystem around these Arctic vents is diverse and appears to be unique, unlike the vent communities ob
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Contact: Sandra Hines
shines@u.washington.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert  

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