East Pacific Rise: Hot Springs and Geophysical Experiments

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Science  28 Mar 1980:
Vol. 207, Issue 4438, pp. 1421-1433
DOI: 10.1126/science.207.4438.1421


Hydrothermal vents jetting out water at 380° ± 30°C have been discovered on the axis of the East Pacific Rise. The hottest waters issue from mineralized chimneys and are blackened by sulfide precipitates. These hydrothermal springs are the sites of actively forming massive sulfide mineral deposits. Cooler springs are clear to milky and support exotic benthic communities of giant tube worms, clams, and crabs similar to those found at the Galápagos spreading center. Four prototype geophysical experiments were successfully conducted in and near the vent area: seismic refraction measurements with both source (thumper) and receivers on the sea floor, on-bottom gravity measurements, in situ magnetic gradiometer measurements from the submersible Alvin over a sea-floor magnetic reversal boundary, and an active electrical sounding experiment. These high-resolution determinations of crustal properties along the spreading center were made to gain knowledge of the source of new oceanic crust and marine magnetic anomalies, the nature of the axial magma chamber, and the depth of hydrothermal circulation.