Research ship sweeps for ‘black chimneys’ on ocean bed

The scientific research ship Dayang Yihao (Ocean One) began looking for black chimneys in the basin of the East Pacific Ocean on Friday, domestic media reported.

After a break in Balboa, Panama last week, Dayang Yihao began searching for volcanic vents caused by a fissure in the planet’s surface from which geothermally heated water and hot sulfides vent chimneys rich in gold, silver, copper and manganese.

“The ship will sail to the southern central Pacific ocean ridge, trying to find black chimney clues in places where no country has claimed discovery of these precious resources,” Ni Jianyu, the research mission chief scientist, told the Xinhua News Agency.

“It’s like finding a needle on the floor when standing on top of a skyscraper.”

The ship has already discovered two “black smokers” in the West Pacific Ocean earlier this year, the agency reported.

Scientists on the ship had also caught a 60-centimeter-long tadpole-shaped fish in the South Atlantic at 2,740 meters below sea level on June 5, China’s first catch of a large biological sample in a hot liquid sulfide area, the agency reported.

Life has traditionally been seen as driven by energy from the sun but special creatures live without light and oxygen in black chimney areas, supplying clues to the origins of life, Ni noted. New and unusual species are still being discovered in the neighborhood of black smokers.

The Dayang Yihao has found more than 10 such hydrothermal vents, nearly 10 percent of the world’s total, the Xinhua report said.

Hydrothermal vents tend to be found near ocean basins, volcanic locations, hotspots and areas where tectonic plates are moving apart.

The new research is part of the ship’s 376-day global voyage across the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans since December 8 last year, China’s 22nd deep-sea scientific research mission.

A total 431 scientists have joined the research in different phases, and the ship is expected to return home in December after covering 45,000 nautical miles, the agency reported.

Xinhua – Global Times

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