Deep Sea Exploration

Charles Langmuir is Professor of Geochemistry at Harvard University, and has written a lively article about the search for hydrothermal vents (springs of “super heated” water) in one of the most remote parts of the oceans between New Zealand and Antarctica. (Click on the pdf file below)

His article vividly captures the true spirit of inquiry and the excitement behind the search for understanding the physical nature of this planet on which our lives depend. The ocean is the last great wilderness of our small and precious earth that remain for man to explore. What is our response to the findings that there are whole unknown ecosystems of life adapted to survive in total darkness and very high temperatures? We hope this will raise some questions for our readers.

A Hot Spring

Photograph of a hot spring in Yellowstone National Park in the western United States. Notice that while the area is quite beautiful, the land influenced by the spring is devoid of macroscopic life because of the chemical composition and temperature of the water. Yellowstone is the site of a “supervolcano”, so large as to be invisible.

By contrast, it has been discovered that under the ocean the hydrothermal vents issuing from volcanic ridges are teeming with life, despite extremely high temperatures and the complete absence of light.