The crushing pressures and searing heat of volcanic vents deep under the ocean are no longer unreachable – well, almost.
Thanks to robotic underwater vehicles, specially designed to cope with extreme environments, we can explore the deepest darkest patches of the sea.
In March, one such remotely operated vehicle spent around 150 hours exploring an underwater volcano in the Pacific Ocean near Samoa.
Deep-sea geothermal systems, such as the “BBC site” shown in the videos below, look like black smoke is pouring from the chimneys.
The smoke, though, is seawater below the seafloor that’s heated by magma. As it heats, it’s steeped with metals and rises through the top of the smokestacks.
Check out two dives in high-definition below and the critters that live among the smokestacks.
White patches are bacteria that serve as the bottom of the food chain. Some snails are orange; they’re stained by iron oxide from the vents. Look closely and you’ll see worms, crabs and more:
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