The sea covers seven tenths of the Earth. Its breadth is pure, and wholesome. It is an immense world, pulsating with every form of life. Here there are no despots. On the surface, men still exercise their endless laws, fight and indulge in all their bloody earthly horrors, but below the surface their power ceases… their dominion vanishes. To live, gentlemen, in the embrace of the sea… only here is there independence… here, I recognize no master… here, I am free.
Captain Nemo, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Speaking of “every form of life”, following the exploration of hydrothermal vents near Antarctica, that list continues to grow – and get weirder.
There were none of the tubeworms, polychaetes (bristly worms), clams, mussels, predatory crabs, or shrimp typically found at other deep sea vents in the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans. At the same time, there were a few species that overlapped with vents in the west, south, and east Pacific, and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Though the yeti crab species is new, it has relations on the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge and at cold seeps off Costa Rica. In particular, the chemosynthetic (making food from inorganic chemicals) bacteria and other microbes at the base of the food chain at the Antarctic vents were similar to those found elsewhere.
The take home here, then, is not that this new vent system is from another planet (although it’s definitely more unusual than most, for reasons gone into in the Sci Am article), but that there are actually many different kinds of vent community on Earth, and that most don’t involve tube worms. The authors made an attempt to calculate just how many types there are. When their new data from the Southern Ocean were added to existing data, computers calculated that there are most likely 11.
Watch Under the Sea Near Antarctica, ‘a Riot of Life’ Discovered in Super-Heated Water on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.
From the bottom of the world to the top, there’s more to learn from satelites than just people’s sex lives.
Frigid freshwater flowing into the Arctic Ocean from three of Russia’s mighty rivers was diverted hundreds of miles to a completely different part of the ocean in response to a decades-long shift in atmospheric pressure associated with the phenomenon called the Arctic Oscillation, according to findings published in the Jan. 5 issue of Nature.
The new findings show that a low pressure pattern created by the Arctic Oscillation from 2005 to 2008 drew Russian river water away from the Eurasian Basin, between Russia and Greenland, and into the Beaufort Sea, a part of the Canada Basin bordered by the United States and Canada. It was like adding 10 feet (3 meters) of freshwater over the central part of the Beaufort Sea.
“Knowing the pathways of freshwater in the upper ocean is important to understanding global climate because of freshwater’s role in protecting sea ice — it can help create a barrier between the ice and warmer ocean water below — and its role in global ocean circulation. Too much freshwater exiting the Arctic would inhibit the interplay of cold water from the poles and warm water from the tropics,” said Jamie Morison, an oceanographer with the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory and lead author of the Nature paper.
Greg Laden explains the significance of this oscillation
Finally, from undersea exploration of weird creatures in the polar regions of Earth to cold Mars, I give you bacteria that eats iron.