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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Emerging Science Note-Sea Sounds

Air Date: Week of February 16, 2007

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"The recording device that captured the sounds of black smoker venting sits here between waters that are 660 F, hot enough to poach unsuspecting fish, and cooler places lush with tube worms." (Courtesy of the University of Washington)

Living on Earth’s Paige Doughty reports that scientists have recorded the sounds of hydrothermal vents deep in the ocean.

Transcript

DOUGHTY: In the deepest parts of the ocean no light reaches the sea floor. It’s pitch black and for the most part quiet. But not everywhere …

[SOUND OF BLACK SMOKER HYDROTHERMAL VENT (Recorded bv Timothy Crone)]

This is the sound of piping hot aquatic vents on the Juan de Fuca Ridge, a mile and a half below the surface off the coast of Washington State. These vents, known as black smokers, spew superheated water laced with minerals.


The recording device that captured the sounds of black smoker venting sits here between waters that are 660 F, hot enough to poach unsuspecting fish, and cooler places lush with tube worms.
(Courtesy of the University of Washington)

For years most scientists believed these vents were silent. But now researchers at the University of Washington have proven that they’re not. The sound of the vents has been captured using a specially designed deep-sea digital recorder.

So why does this matter to anybody, other than the fish? Well, the chemicals dissolved in the piping hot water of hydrothermal vents provide important nutrients for the ocean’s food chain. There’s even speculation that life itself may have begun in the chemical cauldrons around such vents. And lead researcher Timothy Crone says that by analyzing the sound researchers can better understand the flow of material out of the vents and the cycling of chemicals from the earth’s crust into the ocean. And he hopes that this work may reveal important information about how life on earth began. So, maybe the sound of this smoker will help get us all out of the dark. That’s this week’s note on emerging science I’m Paige Doughty.

 

Links

The Sound Generated by Mid-Ocean Ridge Black Smoker Hydrothermal Vents

 

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