Deep Sea Explorations:
In July of 2002, Jill and I flew to Spain and then on to
the Azores archipelago located in the southern mid Atlantic Ocean. There
we rejoined our Russian friends aboard the R/V Keldysh and again dove aboard
the MIR submersibles.
Near the Azores, we ventured down approximately 8,000 feet
below the ocean ‘s
surface to visit an Ecosystem that few have had an opportunity to see . We
visited the "Rainbow
Vents" ….a truly amazing and hostile environment that occurs
along a mid ocean rift where the Earth’s tectonic plates meet. Unlike
the life sustaining “photosynthesis” which occurs at the surface
of our planet by virtue of sunlight, here in this abyss a process known as "chemosynthesis" allows
a food chain to exist capable of sustaining weird lifeforms in full darkness
and under tremendous, crushing pressure. Lifeforms such as an abundance of
white crabs, blind shrimps, mussels, clams and ribbony fish.
Super hot water spews from fissures in the sea bottom, reaching
temperatures as high as 700 degrees F. and contrary to previous scientific
assumptions of the lifeless hostility of such environments, life abounds!
The harsh living environment of the vents can range from
numbing cold to blistering hot, often only a few inches apart. Just as amazing
is the fact that many scientists now believe that life on Earth actually
began in this type of environment! This revelation has served to make us
all rethink our previous postulates as to the necessary life supporting environmental
ingredients as we continue our search for the origins of life.