Ocean Science

Singing Vents

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Science  02 Feb 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5812, pp. 575
DOI: 10.1126/science.315.5812.575a

Mid-ocean ridges are dotted with hydrothermal vents termed black smokers. From these towers, dark streams of mineral-laced hot water bubble out to enrich the deep ocean and provide niche environments for many organisms. Little is known, however, about the patterns of hydrothermal flow from individual vents. As a means of monitoring the flow, Crone et al. have recorded the sounds of two black smokers, “Sully” and “Puffer,” on the Juan de Fuca ridge 2200 m below the ocean surface. Submerged acoustic sensors provided close to 200 hours of recorded data. Both vents proved noisy, exceeding the ambient level by 10 to 30 dB. Broadband acoustic signals were measured at frequencies up to 500 Hz, possibly generated from a combination of volume changes in the flow, turbulence enhanced by fluid heterogeneity, and chimney vibration. Single tones sang out over the top, perhaps indicating resonant frequencies of the cavities. The authors speculate that such sounds could be used by organisms living near black smokers for navigation and to avoid the scorching water. — JB

PLoS ONE 1, e133 (2006).

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