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What Is A White Smoker? | The Lost City

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of hydro-thermal vents located in the deep ocean,thousands of meters from the surface, these towering chimneys spew black, acidic, metal-rich water from deep within the Earth. Hydro-thermal vents are some of the most extreme environments on the planet—and home to some of the most interesting creatures alive. But in 2000, scientists discovered a vent unlike any other—one not quite so deep down with white chimneys that’s been around at least ten times longer than any other vent field. And some of them think it may help us understand how all life began.

The researchers on the Alvin submersible weren’t looking for a massive hydro-thermal vent field when they were exploring a mountainous region of the Atlantic seafloor about 750 to 900 meters below the waves. They basically stumbled upon it: a sprawling field of huge, white spires and chimneys up to sixty meters tall. Because of these dramatic structures, and the site’s location on the Atlantis Massif,the researchers named the site the Lost City Hydro-thermal Field. And it turns out Lost City is really different from other hydro-thermal vents.

Most vents are what scientists call “black smokers”, and they form where there’slots of volcanic activity. In those cases, water in the Earth’s crust gets super heated by underground, molten rock and bursts out into the deep ocean. We’re talking water that’s hotter than boiling—like, up to —which is only kept from becoming gas by the intense pressure of the deep sea.

This super hot water strips the rocks it comes into contact with of minerals like iron sulfide,which turns it black. Lost City’s white smoker chimneys are basically the exact opposite of that because they form by a process known as serpentinization instead. It occurs when seawater meets olivine, a greenish mineral containing magnesium, iron and silicate. You might have actually seen some of this stuff before—the gem-quality version is known as peridot. Olivine is formed naturally in the Earth’s mantle—that viscous layer of molten rock/below/ the crust.

And at Lost City, the olivine-rich mantle is closer to the surface than usual—perhaps because it sits near the intersection of a mid-ocean ridge and a fault. Whatever the reason, the mantle is close enough that the seawater can seep down through the cracks in the crust and come into contact with this olivine. And that sets off a chemical reaction. As water infiltrates the gaps of olivine’s crystal structure, it changes into serpentinite. As that happens, some of the oxygen atoms combine with the iron from the olivine to form magnetite

What Is A White Smoker? | The Lost City What Is A White Smoker? | The Lost City Reviewed by ViralBlossom on April 10, 2020 Rating: 5

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