In July of 2002, Jill and I flew to Spain and then on to the Azores archipelago located in the southern mid Atlantic Ocean. There we rejoined our Russian friends aboard the R/V Keldysh and again dove aboard the MIR submersibles.
Near the Azores, we ventured down approximately 8,000 feet below the ocean ‘s surface to visit an Ecosystem that few have had an opportunity to see . We visited the “Rainbow Vents” ….a truly amazing and hostile environment that occurs along a mid ocean rift where the Earth’s tectonic plates meet. Unlike the life sustaining “photosynthesis” which occurs at the surface of our planet by virtue of sunlight, here in this abyss a process known as “chemosynthesis” allows a food chain to exist capable of sustaining weird lifeforms in full darkness and under tremendous, crushing pressure. Lifeforms such as an abundance of white crabs, blind shrimps, mussels, clams and ribbony fish.
Super hot water spews from fissures in the sea bottom, reaching temperatures as high as 700 degrees F. and contrary to previous scientific assumptions of the lifeless hostility of such environments, life abounds!
The harsh living environment of the vents can range from numbing cold to blistering hot, often only a few inches apart. Just as amazing is the fact that many scientists now believe that life on Earth actually began in this type of environment! This revelation has served to make us all rethink our previous postulates as to the necessary life supporting environmental ingredients as we continue our search for the origins of life.