Scientists to gather first samples from localsea vents

| 06/01/2012

ocean-deepest-black-smoker-vent_18667_600x450.jpg(CNS): A group of scientists heading to the region this month are embarking on a marine expedition to the Cayman Trench to gather the first ever species samples from the hydrothermal vents found there in 2009. Marine experts aboard the research vessel Atlantis with the use of a deep-diving robot are expecting to find dozens of new species in one of the most extreme and least explored places on the planet. The Mid Cayman ridge, a rift in the seafloor some 70 miles long and more than 9 miles deep is home to two seafloor chimneys  – the Von Damm and the Piccard which emit scalding chemically altered seawater that could offer clues to how life first evolved on earth.

Until now logistics have prevented scientists from getting direct data from the two vents but the scientists hope that they will now be able to catalogue the mysterious creatures that are living in the dark ocean depths.  In oceans around the world a variety of marine life has been found to survive in the superheated waters around similar type of vents. This summer scientists were able to film tube worms at the Von Damm site but they say they need to collect specimens to really know what’s down there.

At 7,500 feet the rock at the site is couple of billion years old and is one of the few accessible places on the planet where seawater can interact with heated primordial rocks, producing the warm, hydrogen-rich soup scientists suspect gave rise to the world's first organisms.

"The hydrothermal reactions there are probably our closest modern-day analogue for geology in the first half of Earth's existence," Chris German, chief scientist on the expedition and a geochemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts told the online science website OurAmazingPlanet.

That means the Von Damm site could provide a glimpse of the mechanisms that, over the ages, transformed lifeless molecules to living, complex beings.

"If you track [life] down to the lowest denominator — the common ancestor— it speaks to a single-celled organism that thrived in high temperatures and low oxygen environments," German said.

NASA scientists are also taking part in the expedition in the hope of finding clues to what geological conditions could set the stage for life on other worlds.

The Piccard vent is a 3,000 feet deep and as deeper often means hotter in the hydrothermal vent world scientists believe this vent could be even hotter than the highest so far recorded of 465 F.

Researchers aren't entirely sure what they'll find at Piccard but comparing the deeper vent with Von Damm is part of the mission. The vents are about 14 miles apart, but Piccard is 2,300 m deeper than Von Damm and depth the scientists say could be more important than the distancewhen it comes to differences in the species. It could be that species living at vents thousands of miles apart have more in commonwith one another than those closer together, but at different depths, where the immense pressure could affect what animals can survive there.

The scientists have a code of conduct where they only take as many samples as they need in order not to disturb the eco-systems but they expect to collect two or three tube worms, a few dozens of shrimp, and mostly samples of the tiniest animals they find at the vents.

See more on the expedition here


Category: Science and Nature

Comments (30)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    The vents lie with the "extended seafloor territory" of the Cayman Islands, an area already recognised as belonging to the Cayman Islands under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

    In any case, this article is inaccurate: British scientists dove to the vents in April 2010 with an remote underwater vehicle, and collected samples from them, as reported widely in the Cayman Islands media at the time.  The photo being used to illustrate this article was taken by that expedition.

  2. NHB says:

    They are really looking for Gold and Copper, the deep water seafloor resource production industry, is staking cliams to most of the ocean floors at this very moment, I hope the powers that be have this covered and that they are buying the rights to mine from The Cayman goverment not other nations or I hope we haven't sold them yet and that we are going to be getting a decent, license fees from it when it happens.


    • Pit Bull says:

      The mining rights would belong to the British.

    • Anonymous says:

      As the Piccard Vent is 16,400 feet deep or 5000m there will be no commercial mining for years to come, there are far more accessable regions to mine.

      Seriously think about the logistsics or ore mining at 49,034 kPA of pressure and getting a drill and extraction pipe that length from a boat. After it is ver different from drilling for oil

  3. Anonymous says:

    I smell a whole lot of B.S.

    Pull the veil back a bit and you will see what is really behind this- the hunt for natural resources i.e. minerals, metals and fossil fuels.  Those vents are an untapped goldmine (maybe literally).   This research has been ongoing for sometime and started with some random submarine/deep diving robot about a year or two ago that came through this area.

    What Cayman needs to do is ensure that our claims to our extended economic zone which includes the sea floor are staked right now.  Because whatever treasure is down there should benefit us directly.  

    Someone is paying for the research and its definitely not some rich dude or rich corporation interested in new species.  The biological/geographical mumbo jumbo is just the smoke screen.  We need to ensure we stake our claim to it and that the money goes to benefit the people of the Cayman Islands.

    All who have mocked us for years saying we produce nothing and therefore are worth nothing without u, the game's about to change- big time.  Might be a few years before they figure out how to turn whatever is down there into cold hard cash but trust me that's the reason behind the expedition.

  4. Peter Milburn says:

    There are some real serious idiots on here sometimes.Try and focus your thoughts on something or someone else.Leave the scientists alone.We wouldnt have many of the things we have today if we did not have scientific knowlege to help us.I believe in God but I dont try to ram that down other peoples throats.Have some nice things to say about people instead.isnt it not in the Bible too?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Once the scientists are finished with the vents, they should refocus their studies on Caymans most prehistoric creatures, our infamous bubble headed religidons. But they shouldn't get to close, don't want to burst their blissful existence into learning about their environment and contributing constructive scientific ideas.  

    • Anonymous says:

      Why is it that we somehow took a scientific exploration article and managed to get a religions war out of it. Gee sounds just like history from both sides. The atheist is attacking the Christian and the Christian is attacking tha atheist.

      The article itself had nothing to do with religion. It did not even mention religion.

      • Anonymous says:

        An oversimplification, the scene is more like:


        1. A christian acts over defensive about a scientific observation that runs contrary to their beliefs which would ruin their life-insurance to extend their consciousness "forever". Amazing how living forever means how little you have to prove why circumstances exists as they do… you can be lazy about what is real and miracles just happen by divinity, like the vents, and we can exploit the vent and mine for ore and there will be no environmental consequences because God will just make more(like nachos)…


        2. A scientific minded persons(not necessarily an unbeliever in the existence of higher life forms) that would simply like to expose the distractions of ignorance and myth. Amazing how humbling knowing that there are these vents and life forms that have been around for millions of years…there could be vents like this on other planets in our own solar system that could house life…I wonder if technologies developed  for/from these vents could be used elsewhere to increase the quality of life and are we always on guard to minimize any damage to that environment.  I wonder if any of those technologies could be used to benefit Caymanians…

        • Anonymous says:

          I believe the first comment is by whodatis who sounds as if hemakes a joke out of Genesis.So the first shot was not by a Christian or at least not for Christians.

          Second of all what ever is proven hear can in no way tell me that the Bible is wrong.

          We all knew that Dinasours and life existed on the earth well before the time that is estimated from the book of Genesis. So nothing has changed. The Bible was never written to prove anything of the sort it was mean't to tell about the relationship between God and man.

          • Anonymous says:

            You seem to more interested in religious taxonomy and determining whether who is/is not a christian, rather than coming to grips with the Bible being inaccurate and archaic. You are like those group of idiots at every workplace who always assume and impose your religious beliefs on others, wasting their time and creating a list for who you think will make the cut into heaven, or worse, distracting from the work of scientist and calling it foolish because you are to stupid to understand its implications, and instead you try to  rewrite scientific observation to match your Bible stories. Pathetic, and the sooner society recognizes the games you play with others philosophies, the quicker we can identify who to ignore.

            • Anonymous says:

              Having experienced that workplace situation in a government post, I  changed jobs.

              Although I look back on it now as hilarious, it was not amusing when it was happening.  I didn't pretend to be one of them, and manged to fit in, but the "group prayers" for really stupid stuff, and complete ignorance of science got to me. Management discouraged research of any kind. The quality of the  work was affected as well by a high rate of absenteeism through illness. Besides poor diet, and no exercise, none of them "Believed" in the flu shot.

            • Anonymous says:

              Anon 0754 dont you realize that their are brilliant people on both sides of the arguement the likes of which you nor I am worthy of tieing their boots.

              PS it was not the Christians that started this but the atheist.

              And I am both a scientist and a Christian and I dont shove anything down anyones throats just cant stand all the child like attitudes.

          • Whodatis says:

            Oh dear me …


  6. Dr. Pepper says:

    "The hydrothermal reactions there are probably our closest modern-day analogue for geology in the first half of Earth's existence,"  What do you mean?  That would be just over 3,000 years ago.  The Bible tells me so.


  7. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps while they are here they could check out the Bush Vent. It spews out hot gas at much shallower depth and is also surrounded by primitive organisms.

    • Deep Sea Creature says:

      There are two vents in the Cayman Trench, you only mentioned about the Bush Vent but totally forgot or simply ignored the other one, the Mclaughlin Vent, scientist are here on limited time and thus have no time to waste,haven't you heard of the term "killing two birds with one stone"………..lmao

    • Anonymous says:

      How life first evolved on earth is found in Genesis 1 verse 1 continue reading. Its explained in its entirety in my King James Bible.
      I prefer to believe the Word of God than so called scientific experts, their atheistic antichrist ideology is better described as the “Philosophy of Fools!”

      • Anonymous says:

        Learning about evolution just adds the details to God's creation described in Genesis. .In Genesis it says that God created everything. It was written long before men had any understanding of where life came from. When God created the beginning, he did it in the most incredibly miracuous way there is. He created it so that it could change  and develop forever as he still changes to this day. God was not so dumb as to just make some type of totally static creation that would never change. Look around. We did not have all these different types of dogs very long ago. Any of you can go find ancient bones–look at the Mastatdon bones they are finding as the permafrost melts in Siberia. You cannot get people from all of the world to join in a big fake science. It is real.  God created a method that far exceeds the summary he handed to mere men who yet knew very little. Can you imagine God trying to explain to the writers of the Bible a few thousand years ago how de decided to used a genetic code to build everything? Give God the credit he deserves. Science only helps us understand his wonders. Science in no way takes credit away from God, it only is the result of using our God given talents to learn about his glorious world.

        I cannot put my name on this because my family thinks that it will draw people to hate me in the name of their religion.

        • Anonymous says:

          …and this is why you won't find scientists wanting to wast their time explaining any of their discoveries to religidons, because christians will just try to trump any joy of true discovery by stating that the true credit should go to God totally discounting all their hard work… disgusting…disingenuous…..

      • Anonymous says:

        The Bible says "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him neither dcan he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

        People who do  not believe in God cannot understand that He is creator and sustainer of everything in existence, so they will search for answers that will satisfy their logic.

        God is not affected by their efforts.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
        In fact His word asks the question "What is man that thou art mindful of him?" 


  8. Anonymous says:

    mmmm…  "scalding chemically altered seawater that could offer clues to how life first evolved"?  I can see it now:  Cayman forefathers were really walking fish that plopped their way out of vents along the beaches of George Town. First you had the boddens and then the watlers. They grew legs and start making thatch rope. LOL…  these scientists never cease to amaze me!  

  9. Slowpoke says:

    This whole article is nothing but a thinly disguised attack on Cayman's Christan Heritage and the Bible.

    • Anonymous says:

      The bible is a work of fiction.  A collection of stories passed down through the generations thousands of years ago and changed at whim. 

      Scientific discovery has nothing to do with folklore and superstition.

  10. Whodatis says:

    Haven't they heard of Genesis 1:1?!