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Alien world: New discoveries of exotic lifeforms & volcanic metal chimneys in the deep ocean

 

news 24 February 201211:24

Marine Institute/RIA Lecture

Dr. Andy Wheeler, UCC (Chief Scientist) & the Irish-British VENTuRE survey scientific team.

Andy Wheeler led a groundbreaking Irish-led marine research mission aboard the national research vessel RV Celtic Explorer investigating life at 3,000 metres below the surface of the sea on the ‘45o North MAR hydrothermal vent field’ using the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Holland 1. These vents, which spew mineral rich seawater heated to boiling point by volcanic material in the earth’s crust below, are home to a rich variety of marine life that thrives in complete darkness on bacteria fed by chemicals.

The Irish-led scientific expedition discovered a previously uncharted field of hydrothermal vents along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge – the first to be explored north of the Azores.

The investigation was supported by the Marine Institute under the 2011 Ship-Time Programme of the National Development Plan and by the National Geographic Society, who filmed the work for inclusion in an upcoming National Geographic Channel series, “Alien Deep,” premiering globally in 2012.

“On the first dive, we found the edge of the vent field within two hours of arriving on the seafloor,” said Dr. Wheeler. “The ROV descended a seemingly bottomless underwater cliff into the abyss. We never reached the bottom, but rising up from below were these chimneys of metal sulphides belching black plumes of mineral-rich superheated water. Often the search for vents takes much longer, and our success is a testament to the hard work and skill of everyone on board.”

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