Washington, April 12 (ANI): A team of British scientists has discovered the world's deepest undersea volcanic vents, spewing out super hot minerals more than three miles under the sea.
Using a deep-diving vehicle remotely controlled from the Royal Research Ship James Cook, the scientists explored the Cayman Trough in the Caribbean.
They discovered slender spires made of copper and iron ores, pumping out water hot enough to melt lead.
The 'black smokers' are nearly half a mile deeper than has ever been seen before.
Deep-sea vents are undersea springs where superheated water erupts from the ocean floor. They were first seen in the Pacific three decades ago, but most are found between one and two miles deep.
Scientists are fascinated by deep-sea vents because the scalding water that gushes from them nourishes lush colonies of deep-sea creatures, which has forced scientists to rewrite the rules of biology.
Studying the life-forms that thrive in such unlikely havens is providing insights into patterns of marine life around the world, the possibility of life on other planets, and even how life on Earth began.
The expedition to the Cayman Trough is being run by Drs Doug Connelly, Jon Copley, Bramley Murton, Kate Stansfield and Professor Paul Tyler, all from Southampton, UK.
They used a robot submarine called Autosub6000, developed by engineers at the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) in Southampton, to survey the seafloor of the Cayman Trough in unprecedented detail.
The team then launched another deep-sea vehicle called HyBIS, developed by team member Murton and Berkshire-based engineering company Hydro-Lek Ltd, to film the world's deepest vents for the first time.
"Seeing the world's deepest black-smoker vents looming out of the darkness was awe-inspiring," said Copley, a marine biologist at the University of Southampton's School of Ocean and Earth Science (SOES) based at the NOC and leader of the overall research programme.
"Superheated water was gushing out of their two-storey high mineral spires, more than three miles deep beneath the waves," he added. (ANI)