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Underwater forest of hydrothermal vents off the coast of Washington are being mapped for the first time

Underwater forest of hydrothermal vents off the coast of Washington state is first mapped, revealing over 500 coils, some 90 feet long

  • Hundreds of hydrothermal vents have been mapped in the Pacific Northwest
  • It is the first time that the 12 miles of chimneys have ever been mapped
  • The team found that there are 527 on the sea floor, some of which are as long as 90 feet
  • Experts believe that the highest vents are still active on the sea floor

Deep below the Pacific Northwest is an underwater forest with huge hydrothermal chimneys that stretch for miles across the seafloor.

In the Endeavor segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge, 220 miles northwest of Washington State, the seafloor is tearing apart and underwater geysers and vents are still forming.

Using sonar ships and underwater vehicles, researchers first mapped this area to reveal 527 chimneys – some of which are nearly 90 feet long.

The coils are made from an accumulation of minerals that flow to the surface in heated liquid – as hot as 750 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Using sonar ships and underwater vehicles, researchers first mapped the seafloor to reveal 527 chimneys in the area - some of which are nearly 90 feet long

Using sonar ships and underwater vehicles, researchers first mapped the seafloor to reveal 527 chimneys in the area – some of which are nearly 90 feet long

The hydrothermal chimneys, known as the Endeavor vents, are located in a long, narrow valley that is about 8.6 miles long and nearly a mile wide.

This has been a sought-after location for many scientists since the 1980s, but no one has been able to map the entire area due to difficult access and murky waters.

A previous study conducted by US and Canadian experts was able to locate approximately 47 active vents.

After their work, this area was supposed to have the most and the highest known as ‘Godzilla’ standing about 150 feet before it toppled in 1995.

The coils are made from an accumulation of minerals that flow to the surface in heated liquid - as hot as 750 degrees Fahrenheit

The coils are made from an accumulation of minerals that flow to the surface in heated liquid - as hot as 750 degrees Fahrenheit

The coils are made from an accumulation of minerals that flow to the surface in heated liquid – as hot as 750 degrees Fahrenheit

Active chimneys usually arise from superheated water of about 570 degrees Fahrenheit, sometimes as hot as 750 degrees, that flows up through the cracks in the sea floor. If the flow is strong and persists for a long time, the chimney can expand until it becomes unstable and falls over

Active chimneys usually arise from superheated water of about 570 degrees Fahrenheit, sometimes as hot as 750 degrees, that flows up through the cracks in the sea floor. If the flow is strong and persists for a long time, the chimney can expand until it becomes unstable and falls over

Active chimneys usually arise from superheated water of about 570 degrees Fahrenheit, sometimes as hot as 750 degrees, that flows up through the cracks in the sea floor. If the flow is strong and persists for a long time, the chimney can expand until it becomes unstable and falls over

Now, researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) deployed sonar ships and underwater robots to create a full map of the stunning screen.

David Clague, the study’s lead author, said, “It’s very hard to see down there because all the particles in the water create some kind of haze.”

“I remember there was one well-studied chimney where the composition of the fluids seemed to vary from one survey dive to another.”

“It wasn’t until we made our detailed maps that people realized they had actually sampled two different chimneys.”

“Apparently they would encounter one chimney or the other depending on which direction they were approaching the site.”

Claque and his team explored the area seven times in 2008 and 2001.

Located in the Endeavor Segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge, located 220 miles northwest of Washington State, the seafloor is tearing apart and underwater geysers and vents are still forming

Located in the Endeavor Segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge, located 220 miles northwest of Washington State, the seafloor is tearing apart and underwater geysers and vents are still forming

Located in the Endeavor Segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge, located 220 miles northwest of Washington State, the seafloor is tearing apart and underwater geysers and vents are still forming

During this time, the autonomous underwater vehicle completed 140 hours of diving and mapped 24 square miles of the seafloor.

After reviewing the data, the team found that all chimneys were at least nine feet long.

However, the mapping effort also discovered other larger vents, presumably active, that were at least 90 feet high.

Active chimneys usually arise from superheated water of about 570 degrees Fahrenheit, sometimes as hot as 750 degrees, that flows up through the cracks in the sea floor.

If the flow is strong and persists for a long time, the chimney can expand until it becomes unstable and falls over.

Clague and his co-authors suggest that the Endeavor segment has many inactive chimneys, as this area has had only a few minor volcanic eruptions in the past thousands of years, and the lava from these eruptions has not buried the chimneys.

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