Author: Ashley Coates
Diving to depths of 2,000 metres near the Galapagos Islands in the spring of 1979, the crew of the submersible Alvin became the first to witness the phenomenon of “black smokers”.
Usually shrouded in permanent darkness, these hydrothermal vents were found to emit black spouts of water at temperatures as high as 380C at a pH of 2.8, making it very acidic. The real significance of the sites became clear in future expeditions.
Despite the incredibly hostile environment, hydrothermal vents were found to be home to a significant array of marine life, with many unique to this habitat.