Discovery of new hydrothermal vent sites in Bransfield Strait, Antarctica

G. P. Klinkhammer, C.S. Chin, R.A. Keller, A. Dahlmann, H. Sahling, G. Sarthou, S. Petersen, F Smith and C. Wilson

Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 193: 395-407, 2001

Abstract

We carried out a search for hydrothermal vents in the Central Basin of Bransfield Strait, Antarctica. The ZAPS (zero angle photon spectrometer) chemical sensor and instrument package (Oregon State University). OFOS (ocean-floor observation system) camera sled and TVG (TV-grab) (GEOMAR) were used to explore the water column and underlying seafloor. These operations were supplemented with a series of dredges. Hydrothermal plumes over Hook Ridge at the eastern end of the basin are confined to the E ridge crest and SE flank. The plumes are complex and sometimes contain two turbidity maxima one widespread feature centered at 1150 to and a smaller, more localized but broad maximum at 600-800 in. We traced the source of the shallower plume to a sunken crater near the ridge crest using sensors on the ZAPS instrument package. Subsequently two TV-grabs from the crater brought back hot, soupy sediment (42-49C) overlain by hard, siliceous crusts and underlain by a thick layer of volcanic ash. We also recovered chimney fragments whose texture and mineralogy indicate venting temperatures in excess of 250C. Native sulfur and Fe-sulfides occur in fractures and porous layers in sediment from throughout the area. Pore water data from the crater site are consistent with venting into a thin sediment layer and indicate phase separation of fluids beneath Hook Ridge. The source; of the deeper plumes at Hook Ridge has yet to be located. We also explored a series of three parallel volcanic ridges west of Hook Ridge called Three Sisters. We detected water column anomalies indicative of venting with the ZAPS package and recovered hydrothermal barites and sulfides from Middle Sister. We spent considerable time photographing Middle Sister and Hook Ridge but did not identify classic vent fauna at either location. We either missed small areas with our photography or typical MOR vent fauna are absent at these sites.

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