Volcanic vent system found in Atlantic


IRISH AND British scientists have confirmed discovery of a volcanic vent system and several new marine species some 1,000 miles west of the Irish coast.

Details of the mineral-rich ecosystem, which has been recorded with National Geographic, are due to be announced this morning by Minister for Marine Simon Coveney in Cork.

The scientists believe they may have discovered three previously unidentified marine species. The system is in international waters, well beyond Ireland’s exclusive economic zone, but the expedition on board the State research ship Celtic Explorer was regarded as one of the most technically challenging ever undertaken by it.

Scientists from NUI Galway, University College Cork, Southampton University and the Geological Survey of Ireland, left Galway docks on the ship last month.

Hydrothermal vents are fissures or cracks in the earth’s surface, funnelling enormous volumes of sea water enriched with minerals from volcanic sources.

They were first discovered in the Pacific Ocean some 30 years ago, and some 500 new faunal species have been recorded in six bio-geographical provinces charted to date. The chimneys or “black smokers” that the vents create are teeming with life, they thrive on the chemosynthesis provided by the chemicals dissolved in vent fluids, developing a food chain independent of sunlight.

The first indication of this system on the mid-Atlantic ridge was detected by British scientists with the National Oceanography Centre at Southampton University three years ago.