West of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, atop a submarine mountain, an uneven view of towers emerges from the darkness. A remote-controlled vehicle sent for exploration gives the creamy carbonate walls and pillars a ghostly blue hue. They range in size from small mushroom-sized clumps to a huge monolith 60 meters high. This is the Lost City.
Found by researchers in 2000 at a depth of more than 700 meters, the Lost City Hydrothermal Field is the ocean's longest-lasting venting environment. It is unique and unprecedented.
In this part of the planet, the rising mantle has been reacting with saltwater to push hydrogen, methane and other dissolved gases into the ocean for at least 120.000 years, and possibly longer.
Even in the absence of oxygen, hydrocarbons feed unique microbial populations in the cracks and crevices of the site's chimneys.
Snails and crustaceans abound in chimneys that ventilate gases that can reach temperatures of 40°C. Although they are not common, larger species such as eel, crab, shrimp and sea urchin are also found.
Researchers believe this ecosystem is worthy of our attention and protection because, despite its harsh conditions, it appears to be teeming with life.
This is the only hydrothermal field that remotely operated vehicles have found so far, but there is no doubt that there are other similar hydrothermal fields elsewhere in the oceans of the planet.
The hydrocarbons released from the Lost City's chimneys were not formed by carbon dioxide in the air or sunlight, but by chemical processes deep within.
This raises the possibility that life began in a habitat like this, as hydrocarbons form the basis of life. And not just here on Earth.
Such an ecosystem “may be operating right now on Enceladus or Europa,” microbiologist William Brazelton told the Smithsonian in 2018. He was referring to the moons of Saturn and Jupiter.
The Lost City's ecosystem does not rely on the heat of lava, unlike underwater volcanic vents known as black smokies, which have also been proposed as a potential first habitat.
Lost City chimneys produce 100 times more hydrogen and methane than black smogs, while black smokies primarily produce substances rich in iron and sulphur.
In addition, the Lost City's calcite chimneys are much larger than black smoke, suggesting they have been in operation for a longer period of time.
Poseidon, named after the Greek god of the sea, is the name of the tallest monolith that is more than 60 meters long.
Meanwhile, just northeast of the tower is a cliff edge with short-term activity. According to researchers at the University of Washington, chimneys in this area "weep" fluid and produce "clumps of delicate, multi-pronged carbonate growths that protrude like the fingers of upturned hands."
The Damages of Mining to the Seabed
Unfortunately, this strange land attracts more than just scientists. It was revealed in 2018 that Poland received permission to mine in the deep sea near the Lost City. Although the thermal area itself does not contain valuable minerals, the destruction of the city's environment can have unexpected repercussions.
Scientists warn that any eruptions or discharges from mining could quickly wash away the unique ecology. To preserve the natural beauty before it's too late, some experts are calling for the Lost City to be added to the World Heritage list.
The Lost City has served as a monument to life's tenacity for tens of thousands of years.
It would be our peculiar behavior to harm him.
Günceleme: 27/01/2023 18:19
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