Washington: Scientists have discovered a new hydrothermal vent 500 kilometres southwest of the Azores.
Researchers from the MARUM Center for Marine Environmental Sciences and the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen on board the German research vessel Meteor discovered the vent with chimneys as high as one meter and fluids with temperatures up to 300 degrees Celsius at one thousand metres water depth in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Bremen scientists were able to find the hydrothermal vent by using the new, latest-generation multibeam echosounder on board the research vessel Meteor that allows the imaging of the water column above the ocean floor with previously unattained precision.
The scientists saw a plume of gas bubbles in the water column at a site about 5 kilometers away from the known large vent field Menez Gwen that they were working on.
A dive with the remote-controlled submarine MARUM-QUEST revealed the new hydrothermal site with smokers and animals typically found at vents on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
Since the discovery of the new vent, the scientists have been intensively searching the water column with the multibeam echosounder.
"Our results indicate that many more of these small active sites exist along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge than previously assumed," said Nicole Dubilier, the chief scientist of the expedition.
"This could change our understanding of the contribution of hydrothermal activity to the thermal budget of the oceans. Our discovery is also exciting because it could provide the answer to a long standing mystery: We do not know how animals travel between the large hydrothermal vents, which are often separated by hundreds to thousands of kilometres from each other," he said.