Hundreds of Towering Hydrothermal Chimneys Discovered on Seafloor Off Washington
An autonomous diving robot captured the vents in unprecedented detail.
By Mindy Weisberger | Senior Writer
LIVE SCIENCE – May 1, 2020 | In the dark ocean depths off the coast of the Pacific Northwest, a magical fairyland of towering spires and hydrothermal chimneys sprout from the seafloor, a stunning new underwater map reveals.
These towers belch superheated liquid warmed by magma deep inside Earth.
“Black smokers,” such as this one in the Endeavour vent field, belch superheated fluids at over 570 degrees Fahrenheit (300 degrees Centigrade) into the surrounding seawater. (Image credit: Copyright 2020 MBARI)
The field of hydrothermal chimneys stretches along the ocean bottom on the Juan de Fuca Ridge to the northwest of coastal Washington state, in an area known as the Endeavor Segment.
Research on the Endeavor vents began in the 1980s, and scientists had previously identified 47 chimneys in five major vent fields. But recent expeditions, using an autonomous underwater vehicle operated by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) revealed more than 500 chimneys in a zone about 9 miles (14 kilometers) long and 1 mile (2 km) wide.