Hydrothermal Vent Facts

A hydrothermal vent (which is also called Black Smoker) is a fissure in the surface of the Earth. There are gases that rise through it, which heat the water around it. There are many such vents on Earth. If they are on land, they are usually hot springs, geysers, or fumaroles. See the fact file below for more information on hydrothermal vents.
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  • Scientists first discovered hydrothermal vents in 1977 while exploring an oceanic spreading ridge near the Galapagos Islands.
  • Hydrothermal vents are known to exist in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Most are found at an average depth of about 2,100 meters (7,000 ft) in areas of sea floor spreading along the Mid-Ocean Ridge system. This ridge is an underwater mountain chain that snakes its way around the globe.
  • Hydrothermal vents continuously spews super-hot, mineral-rich water.
  • Hydrothermal vents are the result of seawater seeping down through fissures in the ocean crust. The cold seawater is heated by hot magma and comes back to the surface to form the vents. Seawater in hydrothermal vents may reach temperatures of over 750 degrees Fahrenheit (400 degrees Centigrade).
  • Hot seawater in hydrothermal vents does not boil because of the extreme pressure at the depths where the vents are formed.
  • “Old Faithful” is a very famous geyser in Yellowstone National Park. A hydrothermal vent is a geyser on the seafloor of the ocean .
  • Black Smokers are the hottest of the vents. They spew mostly iron and sulfide, which combine to form iron monosulfide. This compound gives the smoker its black color.
  • Geologists are surprised by how rapidly vent chimneys grow – up to 30 feet (9 meters) in 18 months. A scientist at the University of Washington has been monitoring the growth of “Godzilla,” a vent chimney in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Oregon. It reached the height of a 15-story building before it toppled. It is now actively rebuilding.
  • There are many other reasons why scientists want to learn more about hydrothermal vents. These underwater geysers are believed to play an important role in the ocean’s circulation patterns, chemistry and temperature.
  • It is also becoming clear that many new plants and animals are being discovered near these vents. The water that comes out of these vents is rich in minerals and scientists believe these organisms thrive in that environment.