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Healy researchers make a series of striking discoveries about Arctic Ocean

hy so many hydrothermal plumes were found here."

Prior to the AMORE cruise most scientists expected little recent volcanic activity and scant evidence for hydrothermal vents, the deep-sea hot springs that host oases of life on the deep seafloor. Instead, sampling sites revealed abundant fresh lava and multiple signs of hydrothermal activity.

Most surprisingly, a dredge team, led by Jeffrey Standish, a graduate student at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, recovered fresh sulfides that apparently are part of "black smoker" chimneys, the most striking manifestation of hydrothermal activity. The find was verified by a camera and sensor package lowered to the seafloor from the Polarstern that showed intact sulfide chimneys and recorded warm water vents. The expedition proposed the name "Aurora" for the vent field.

"We found more hydrothermal activity on this cruise than in 20 years of exploration on the mid-Atlantic Ridge," said Charles Langmuir, co-chief scientist on Healy from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) at Columbia University.

While the heated water from the hydrothermal vents does not significantly affect ocean temperatures, the vents have attracted the attention of both biologists and geologists. Hydrothermal vents on mid-ocean ridges in the world's oceans provide chemical energy that supports exotic life forms and large ecosystems far removed from the Earth's sunlit surface, where photosynthesis forms the base of the food chain. "Our discovery of these signals clearly show that hydrothermal vents similar to those present on faster spreading mid-ocean ridges are present in abundance here, too," said AMORE researcher Henrietta Edmonds of the University of Texas.

AMORE mapped and sampled the Gakkel Ridge which, extends 1100 miles from north of Greenland to Siberia, all of it beneath the Arctic ice cap. The ridge is the deepest and most remote portion of the global mid-ocean ridge system, where
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Contact: Peter West
pwest@nsf.gov
703-292-8070
National Science Foundation
28-Nov-2001


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