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Scientists Discover World of Wonder Beneath the Atlantic

7th August 2011
Scientists Discover World of Wonder Beneath the Atlantic
The Irish-led scientific expedition aboard the RV Celtic Explorer has discovered a previously uncharted field of hydrothermal vents along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the team includes geochemists, marine biologists, marine geologists, marine geneticists and technicians from Ireland and the UK as well as a three-person TV crew from National Geographic filming for a documentary series to be broadcast next year.
The mission, led by Dr Andy Wheeler of University College Cork, returned to Cork last Thursday from an investigation 3,000 metres below the sea surface using their Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Holland 1 at the first hydrothermal vent field to be explored north of the Azores.
Hydrothermal vents, which spew mineral-rich seawater heated to boiling point by volcanic rock in the Earth’s crust below, are home to a rich variety of marine life that thrives in complete darkness on bacteria fed by chemicals.
“On the first dive, we found the edge of the vent field within two hours of arriving on the seafloor, ” said Dr Wheeler. “Often the search for vents takes much longer, and our success is a testament to the hard work and skill of everyone on board.”
The field has been named the Moytirra Vent Field, after a battlefield from Irish mythology that means ‘Plain of the Pillars’.
“In comparison with other vent fields, Moytirra contains some monstrous chimneys and is in an unusual setting at the bottom of a cliff - a real beauty,” said Patrick Collins rom NUI Galway’s Ryan Institute.
His colleague John Copley of the University of Southhampton added: “Using the ROV’s high-definition video camera, we’ve watched unusual orange-bodied shrimp crawling around the chimneys, among clusters of tiny green limpets.
“Elsewhere there are writhing scale-worms, swirling mats of bacteria and eel-like fish – a riot of life in this unlikely haven on the ocean floor.”
Speaking from the RV Celtic Explorer in Cork, Marine Minister Simon Coveney hailed the “exciting new discovery”.
“Ireland is positioning itself as a centre for marine research from a European and international perspective and this work should be supported and welcomed,” he said.

The Irish-led scientific expedition aboard the RV Celtic Explorer has discovered a previously uncharted field of hydrothermal vents along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the team includes geochemists, marine biologists, marine geologists, marine geneticists and technicians from Ireland and the UK as well as a three-person TV crew from National Geographic filming for a documentary series to be broadcast next year.

The mission, led by Dr Andy Wheeler of University College Cork, returned to Cork last Thursday from an investigation 3,000 metres below the sea surface using their Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Holland 1 at the first hydrothermal vent field to be explored north of the Azores.

Hydrothermal vents, which spew mineral-rich seawater heated to boiling point by volcanic rock in the Earth’s crust below, are home to a rich variety of marine life that thrives in complete darkness on bacteria fed by chemicals.

“On the first dive, we found the edge of the vent field within two hours of arriving on the seafloor, ” said Dr Wheeler. “Often the search for vents takes much longer, and our success is a testament to the hard work and skill of everyone on board.”

The field has been named the Moytirra Vent Field, after a battlefield from Irish mythology that means ‘Plain of the Pillars’.

“In comparison with other vent fields, Moytirra contains some monstrous chimneys and is in an unusual setting at the bottom of a cliff - a real beauty,” said Patrick Collins rom NUI Galway’s Ryan Institute.

His colleague John Copley of the University of Southhampton added: “Using the ROV’s high-definition video camera, we’ve watched unusual orange-bodied shrimp crawling around the chimneys, among clusters of tiny green limpets.

“Elsewhere there are writhing scale-worms, swirling mats of bacteria and eel-like fish – a riot of life in this unlikely haven on the ocean floor.”

Speaking from the RV Celtic Explorer in Cork, Marine Minister Simon Coveney hailed the “exciting new discovery”.

“Ireland is positioning itself as a centre for marine research from a European and international perspective and this work should be supported and welcomed,” he said.

Published in Marine Science
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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Marine Science Perhaps it is the work of the Irish research vessel RV Celtic Explorer out in the Atlantic Ocean that best highlights the essential nature of marine research, development and sustainable management, through which Ireland is developing a strong and well-deserved reputation as an emerging centre of excellence. From Wavebob Ocean energy technology to aquaculture to weather buoys and oil exploration these pages document the work of Irish marine science and how Irish scientists have secured prominent roles in many European and international marine science bodies.

 

At A Glance – Ocean Facts

  • 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean
  • The ocean is responsible for the water cycle, which affects our weather
  • The ocean absorbs 30% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activity
  • The real map of Ireland has a seabed territory ten times the size of its land area
  • The ocean is the support system of our planet.
  • Over half of the oxygen we breathe was produced in the ocean
  • The global market for seaweed is valued at approximately €5.4 billion
  • · Coral reefs are among the oldest ecosystems in the world — at 230 million years
  • 1.9 million people live within 5km of the coast in Ireland
  • Ocean waters hold nearly 20 million tons of gold. If we could mine all of the gold from the ocean, we would have enough to give every person on earth 9lbs of the precious metal!
  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector in the world – Ireland is ranked 7th largest aquaculture producer in the EU
  • The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean in the world, covering 20% of the earth’s surface. Out of all the oceans, the Atlantic Ocean is the saltiest
  • The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world. It’s bigger than all the continents put together
  • Ireland is surrounded by some of the most productive fishing grounds in Europe, with Irish commercial fish landings worth around €200 million annually
  • 97% of the earth’s water is in the ocean
  • The ocean provides the greatest amount of the world’s protein consumed by humans
  • Plastic affects 700 species in the oceans from plankton to whales.
  • Only 10% of the oceans have been explored.
  • 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year, equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.
  • 12 humans have walked on the moon but only 3 humans have been to the deepest part of the ocean.

(Ref: Marine Institute)

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