Article image

Five new hydrothermal vents discovered in the Pacific Ocean

Hydrothermal vents, mysterious features deep within the ocean, have recently been spotlighted by the discovery of five new sites in the eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean.

This remarkable find, achieved through the combined efforts of robotic and manned submersibles, marks a significant advance in our exploration of the ocean.

Covering over 70% of our planet’s surface, the ocean remains one of the least explored areas on Earth, filled with hidden mysteries. This recent expedition has significantly enhanced our understanding of these mysterious depths.

Hydrothermal vent discoveries in Pacific Ocean

A collaborative effort between a remote-operated vehicle and a human-occupied submarine has led to the identification of these hydrothermal vent sites.

Positioned at a depth of 2,550 meters (approximately 1.6 miles) along the East Pacific Rise near 10°N latitude, these vents are hotspots of geothermal activity.

The area, part of a major volcanic mountain chain formed by the divergence of two tectonic plates, continues to be a focal point for scientific research due to its dynamic geological processes. According to the researchers, these two tectonic plates are splitting apart at a rate of about 11 centimeters (4.3 inches) per year.

Tools to explore ocean’s hydrothermal vents

The use of the autonomous underwater vehicle Sentry, operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s National Deep Submergence Facility, was crucial.

By mapping the ocean floor at night, Sentry provided high-resolution data that was instrumental in planning subsequent dives by the manned submersible, Alvin.

This tandem operation between Sentry and Alvin allowed the team to explore the complex and ever-changing seafloor environment with precision and efficiency.

Jill McDermott, director of the Lehigh Oceans Research Center, highlighted the synergy between the advanced mapping capabilities of Sentry and the direct observational power of Alvin.

“The high-resolution maps from Sentry allow us to spot likely new hydrothermal fields soon after Sentry comes back on deck,” McDermott explained. “This gives us great targets for Alvin and the opportunity to make multiple discoveries in a single dive.”

Geological significance

Hydrothermal vents, first discovered in 1977, have since been recognized as critical to understanding life’s sustainability under extreme conditions.

These vents support unique ecosystems that thrive in high-pressure and high-temperature environments, providing valuable insights into biological resilience.

“The mid-ocean ridge accounts for more than 75% of all volcanic activity on our planet,” noted Thibaut Barreyre, an expert in thermal measurements. “It is dotted with thousands of deep-sea hot springs which collectively release a significant portion of the Earth’s internal heat.”

“We want to increase our understanding of how hydrothermal vents release heat and chemicals as they flow through the seafloor and affect the global ocean.”

Continuing the quest for knowledge

The ongoing exploration of the East Pacific Rise is poised to deepen our understanding of hydrothermal and volcanic systems in the deep sea.

Future expeditions will leverage the same advanced technology to further study the geophysical, chemical, and biological processes that shape our planet.

“These new perspectives and the analyses of rock samples will let us figure out how quickly the lava erupted, how far it traveled, and the impacts deep-sea lava eruptions have on hydrothermal venting,” noted Daniel Fornari, a marine geologist involved in the research.

Hydrothermal vent discoveries

As scientists like Ross Parnell-Turner, a marine geophysicist, continue to map the intricate details of the ocean floor, each discovery of hydrothermal vents adds a piece to the puzzle of our planet’s complex ecosystem.

These findings not only enhance our geological and biological understanding but also underscore the critical role of advanced technology in exploring the vast, uncharted territories of our ocean.

This blend of science, technology, and nature continues to uncover the secrets held deep within the Earth, particularly through the study of hydrothermal vents. These vents promise to reshape our understanding of the very fabric of life and our planet.

The researchers plan to continue studying hydrothermal activity and volcanism along the East Pacific Rise in a follow-up expedition with Sentry and Alvin. As the expedition team prepares for their next journey, the scientific community and the world eagerly anticipate what mysteries will be revealed.


Like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter for engaging articles, exclusive content, and the latest updates. 

Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and


News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day