Step into water that’s around 12 degrees and you’ll feel, quite rightly, that it feels a lot like a plunge pool. Drop the temperature below 8 degrees and you’re going to be really uncomfortable. Get close to zero and you’re looking at a swift death. For life to flourish, it needs some warmth. Normally, that’s provided by the sun. But not always. KitGuru polishes off its snorkel and heads for the ocean floor.
For the first few million years of modern man’s presence, all of the living creatures were thought to inhabit the sky, land or shallower parts of the oceans. Then, around 1977, scientists discovered plumes of dark, hot water in the East Pacific. These ‘black smokers’ were pouring tons of mineral-rich material, in streams of super-heated water, out from the Earth’s crust – and the funnels being formed created something unexpected. The conditions for complex life.
Now, researchers studying the ocean floor under the Antarctic, have discovered similar vents at a depth of 2.6km under the surface.
Life, in astounding quantities and varieties, living near vents that are pushing water at over 380 degrees celsius into an ocean that averages zero degrees.
Among the most spectacular life forms were huge piles of hairy, Yeti Crabs. The hair seems to be a breeding ground for edible bacteria, while – in turn- the crabs themselves form part of the food chain, becoming snacks for giant, 7 legged star fish.
What made the research even more tricky was the fact that the remote module had to be operated by experts on the surface, even during severe Antarctic storms.
One thing is for sure, no matter how amazing these discoveries seem to be – we’ll find even more amazing things in and around the antarctic as exploration becomes more involved.
KitGuru says: While we love the nuts, bolts, CPUs and mainboards of the technology world – seeing it being used in this way is, somehow, deeply gratifying. Computers allow us to explore our world in unprecedented detail, in environments that would kill a human instantly. We can’t wait to see what will be discovered in the huge bodies of water thought to be liquid under the Antarctic ice fields.
Comments below or in the KitGuru forums.