Hydrothermal Vent Series - Discoveries

Silhouette of Little Hercules as it approaches extinct hydrothermal sulfide spire along the Galápagos Rift. Image courtesy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program.

Unlike great discoveries on land, the ocean is still a fairly unexplored environment. Because of man's inability to handle the oceans restrictions, simply relying on primitive methods of discovery has been largely unrewarding. As man's knowledge of technology has advanced, our ability to make new discoveries in nature has grown as well. One such benefit has allowed us to use remotely operated vehicles (ROV's) to depths of 6,000 meters or more below sea level. With this advantage scientists are able to observe sea life in its natural habitat and bring back previously impossible samples.

The Search Begins

Take for instance the presence of hydrothermal springs spewing from the ocean floor. For many decades scientists surmised the possibility of these anomalies but it wasn't until the late '70's that they were actually found.

It began in 1973 with Project FAMOUS (French-American Mid-Ocean Undersea Study). They proved that submersibles were indispensable on their mission to explore the Rift Valley of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and thus spurred on the 1977 expedition in search of hydrothermal activity. With the goal of proving the existence of hydrothermal plumes among other things the team of geologists led by Jack Corliss located the Galapagos Rift Valley and proceeded to the ocean floor some 2,500 meters down. From the DSV Alvin, scientists logged thrilling data of both geological vastness as well as biological, something they didn't expect. Spending a period of 24 dives during the months of February to March, they found 4 active vent sites they named Clambake, Dandelions, The Garden of Eden, and Oyster Beds. The biology, though altogether great, varied with each site.

Since then such hydrothermal springs, some consisting of black smokers and others of white smokers, have been discovered all over the ocean especially along mid-ocean ridges and seamounts. Here are a few of the more famous vent fields known in the last decade.

Inactive sulfide chimneys along the pinnacle of one tall extinct sulfide spire. It is likely that these once had billows of superheated hydrothermal fluid emanating from them. They form when minerals in the hot fluid precipitate out upon contact with seawater. Image courtesy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program.

Hydrothermal Vent Fields

Located in the Mid-Atlantic, the Lost City vent field was discovered in the year 2000 by a team from the National Science Foundation. This vent site is a prime example of black smoker chimney growth with at least 30 chimneys reaching from 30 to 60 meters, including many smaller examples. But the most staggering of them all is the giant known as Poseidon. With a height of at least 60 meters, the Poseidon's base measures over 50 meters long. It is actively venting methane and hydrogen into the surrounding seawater.

In 2008 the most northerly vent field encountered so far was Loki's Castle vent field along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between Greenland and Norway. The team was from the University of Bergen in Norway. The site was comprised of five converging vents that resembled a fantasy-like castle. They gave it the name "Loki's Castle" because of the difficulty they had in locating it.

Then, in 2010 scientists from the National Oceanography Centre and the University of Southampton explored the deepest known vent site, Beebe Hydrothermal Vent Field. With a depth of 5000 meters below sea level, the Beebe vent site is very reactive due to its extreme heat. It is located in the Cayman Trough between Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. The site is named for the American ecologist William Beebe who was known for his marine studies.

The interesting thing though is that mankind has known about hydrothermal vents long before scientists began to theorize. In the oldest book in the world there is a reference, some 4,000 years old, that reads: “Have you entered the springs of the sea? Or have you walked in search of the depths?"* What kind of springs could it be speaking of except hydrothermal vents? Personally, I find this the most staggering bit of information so far. It's ironic that it has taken mankind so long to actually see it for themselves.

Thank you for reading this installment of my hydrothermal vent series. To read any of the previous articles, visit my page Marine Science. Next up, and lastly, I will be addressing what these springs mean to the world as a resource. See you then!

*Job 38:16 NKJV

-Springs of the Ocean, by Steven A. Austin - Institute for Creation Research  http://www.icr.org/article/springs-ocean/
-Submarine Thermal Springs on the Galapagos Rift (PDF), Science Magazine - http://docs.lib.noaa.gov/OEDV/Galapagos_Rift_2002/doc/hydrothermal_vents_1977-2002_pdf/Corliss.pdf
-Creatures of the Thermal Vents, by Dawn Stover - Popular Science, Ocean Planet http://seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov/OCEAN_PLANET/HTML/ps_vents.html
-Deep-Sea Vents -- Life's Toxic Sanctuary, by Dr. Joe Francis - Answers Magazine https://answersingenesis.org/biology/microbiology/deep-sea-vents-lifes-toxic-sanctuary/
-Loki's Castle - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loki%27s_Castle
-Lost City Hydrothermal Field - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_City_Hydrothermal_Field
-Beebe Hydrothermal Vent Field - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beebe_Hydrothermal_Vent_Field

Highly Dangerous (1950) - Movie Review

Frances Gray is a British entomologist who lives with her sister and young nephew, having never met a man who is not disturbed by the subjects of her work. While preparing to take a vacation, she is met by a man from British Intelligence, Mr. Hedgerly, who asks her help in identifying a species of bug agents of the Iron Curtain are experimenting with and whether they pose any danger. Frances politely refuses and continues preparations to leave on her 'holiday'. Only afterwards she begins thinking about the consequences of the only other available entomologist going, an elderly man, and how his chances of survival would be slim. She calls Hedgerly and accepts the mission.

Her cover is Frances Conway, in reference to a radio show she listens to about a secret agent named Frank Conway and his partner Rusty. She travels as a tourist agent looking for new attractions in the vicinity where, coincidentally, the bugs are being held. Her contact takes no time setting plans to sneak into the laboratory and while waiting on him at a restaurant for further planning, she meets an American reporter called Bill Casey. He recognizes Frances from a magazine she was featured in but Frances plays the part well and calmly denies his charges.

Later that day, she finds her contact dead in her hotel room and the already suspicious Chief of Police, whom she met on the train, arrests her. After methods of intimidation, he has her injected with a truth serum. What he doesn't know is the questions they ask trigger thoughts of Frank Conway, secret agent, and her answers only confuse them. A man from the British Embassy arrives with Bill and arranges her release. The Chief of Police demands that she take the first train home.

While Bill drives her back to her hotel, it's obvious Frances has no intentions of heeding the police and is instead thinking hard about how to complete her mission. Incidentally, she begins calling him Rusty and tells him to meet her at a restaurant and bring a magnifying glass. Confused and unable to get any more out of her, Bill complies.

When they meet she gets down to business, laying out a wild plan to get through the guards and break into the laboratory. Bill tries to piece together what she is trying to do while discouraging her from her dangerous intentions. But it's obvious her mind is set and he has little choice but to go with her. They take measures to shake the man trailing her and proceed toward the laboratory, where they get in unnoticed and take necessary samples and notes.

Unfortunately, the serum responsible for her "adventurous" delusions begins to
wear off, leaving her a bit dazed. Bill manages to get them out but their presence is known. The next couple of days are treacherous for them. They hide in the woods until they are discovered by a priest who organizes papers and tickets for them. They come close to getting caught when the Chief of Police orders a train inspection. But through quick measures on Bill's part, they remain unnoticed.

Reaching Britain at long last, their trouble is not over. Customs officers are holding them on account of their insect samples when Frances realizes the bugs are beginning to eat each other. Time is running short as she and Bill endeavor to feed the insects. Hedgerly arrives and while trying to clear up the situation, the Frank Conway radio program begins playing and Frances frantically tries to silence it. Bill notices but doesn't have time to give it any more thought when he is refused the opportunity to publish the story about the insects. Fortunately, the two having fallen for each other during their dangerous escapades, Frances is able to "persuade" him it is for the better.

My Opinion

This British suspense is a fairly new one in our old movie arsenal, as is British
actress Margaret Lockwood. We first saw her in two other wartime suspenses that we also enjoyed very much. The first is The Lady Vanishes, an Alfred Hitchcock that lives up to the reputation. Lockwood plays a bored rich girl who becomes embroiled in a Nazi spy plot.

The second is Night Train to Munich where Lockwood plays the daughter of a Czech scientist during the second World War, playing a desperate game of cat and mouse from the enemy. Margaret Lockwood has quickly become a new favorite of mine.

I really like how unlike many wartime espionage movies, Highly Dangerous tries something a little new. Experimenting with biological warfare that necessitates the employment of a scientist. Another thing you have to hand it to Frances is for, unlike many female characters in movies, she keeps her head, even if her inexperience in espionage is evident.

Dane Clark plays the excellent American sidekick and the love story between the two is just enough.

We have a joke in my family. Though we watch British movies as much as (if not on occasion, more than) American movies, we love to insist that they can't help but bring an American in because they can't do without us. All you British readers don't be offended. We're just stroking our American pride.

Thanks for reading my review! I intend to write reviews on both the other movies I've mentioned so keep a look out.