Hot2Cold Vents by the Numbers

Photo: Jason Sylvan © WHOI

Days at sea = 30

People on board = 48 (22 Atlantis crew + 8 Alvin Group + 2 Shipboard Science Support Group + 16 scientists)

Alvin dives on the East Pacific Rise = 13 (+ one incomplete due to electrical ground)

Distance Alvin traveled on the seafloor during these dives = 31,299 meters

Scientists making their first dive in Alvin = 11

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Happy 40th to Black Smoker Vents

By Eoghan Reeves

Happy 40th! On April 21, 1979, WHOI submersible pilot Dudley Foster took the first picture of a hydrothermal “black smoker” vent. Foster and scientists Bill Normark (USGS) and Thierry Juteau (a French volcanologist) discovered the seafloor hot spring during an Alvin dive to the East Pacific Rise, where they spied a spectacular sight through the sub’s viewports. The fluid coming from the vent was 350°C (662°F), so hot that it melted the first temperature probe the scientists used to measure the fluids that day.

At left, the first black smoker chimney seen by humans, photographed in 1979 at 21°N on the East Pacific Rise. At right, the chimney known as Marker 10, photographed in 2019 at 9°N on the East Pacific Rise. (Photos: Dudley Foster, ©WHOI and Amy Gartman, ©WHOI)
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Breaking Down Barriers

By Rose Jones

I stare out of research submersible Alvin’s porthole at an alien landscape of glittering obsidian shards and towering vents belching black smoke, 2500 meters below the sea surface. The unforgiving, austere feel and endless horizons remind me inexplicably of home among the mountains and slate tips of Wales. It’s a comparison I still can’t believe I’m in a position to make.

Rose Jones peers through one of Alvin’s viewports during her first dive in the sub. (Photo: Amanda Achberger© Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
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Testing Hypotheses

By Mike Henson

I peered out of the porthole of HOV Alvin like a child at an aquarium looking at the sharks. But the sharks were replaced by Bio9, a hydrothermal vent in the East Pacific Rise off the coast of Central America. The vent towered in the deep ocean like a castle from the Middle Ages, set on top of a large mountain of rocks flanked by two pillars that billowed black smoke from chimneys throughout them.

Bio9 vent. (Photo courtesy of Jason Sylvan, Texas A&M University; funded by NSF; ©Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
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Dating Hydrothermal Vents

A panoramic view of the lab where pieces of vent chimneys collected by expedition scientists go to dry out. Some of these will be used by the Jamieson lab to determine the age of the vents at 9° 50’ North on the East Pacific Rise. (Photo: Rebecca Fowler)

When a vent chimney transitions from hot and actively venting to cold and inactive, the types of microbes inhabiting the vent change too. At 9° 50’ North on the East Pacific Rise, archaea typically reign over hot chimneys, and bacteria rule the cold ones.

A goal of Hot2Cold Vents is to understand how long it takes for the bacteria to replace the archaea. Learning the history and age of a chimney is one way to do this.

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National Submarine Day

Every once in a while you get to celebrate National Submarine Day with an actual sub. Hot2Cold Vents scientists—and many others—are grateful to Alvin for helping us study and explore the wonders of the deep sea. And thanks to our friends at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for letting us know about this holiday.

Skype with Hot2Cold Vents Scientists

Amanda Achberger, Rose Jones, and Jason Sylvan with Alvin. (Photo: Rebecca Fowler)

On Thursday, April 11 at 12:00PM EST, Hot2Cold Vents scientists Amanda Achberger (Texas A&M University), Rose Jones (University of Minnesota), and Jason Sylvan (Texas A&M University) are hosting a YouTube live session from the R/V Atlantis. They’ll field questions about deep-sea science, hydrothermal vents, microbial life, Alvin, and more. The event is hosted by Skype a Scientist and anyone can join. If you missed the live session, use this link to watch it anytime.