Explore some of the deepest, most unknown areas of the ocean floor, far beyond the reach of sunlight. Discover how animals have adapted ways to survive and thrive in this dark, otherworldly ecosystem, where the water pressure from the sea above is so great that it would crush most living things.
Creatures with chemistry
Scientists once thought that life on earth needed sunlight to survive. But at the deep-sea vents, at depths far beyond the reach of sunlight, life forms like giant tubeworms have adapted to take advantage of a new source of energy—chemicals billowing out from below the earth's surface. Photo ©NOAA
Giant bottles of water are really heavy, right? Now imagine sitting under a column of millions of bottles of water! Ocean water applies tons of pressure to everything at the bottom of the sea, but life forms have adapted to hold up under the pressure. Experiment with water pressure in the exhibit to uncover an adaptation that helps animals survive the deep sea.
Take a dive
Human deep-sea ocean explorers have developed ways to deal with the pressure, too. Special submarines called HOVs (human-occupied vehicles) with strong metal walls and thick, wedge-shaped portholes can take scientists to some of the deepest parts of the ocean floor. See a porthole from a real HOV, and take the controls to explore vents and the animals around them at the bottom of the ocean. Photo ©NOAA
When it's too dangerous or expensive to send people to the ocean floor, researchers often send ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) to vent sites to take video, images and samples from the ocean floor. Examine a real ROV up close, and use joysticks and buttons to control it like researchers do in the field.
Find out about how deep-sea vents work, where they form, and what they can tell us about life on earth (and maybe even in space) that we can't learn anywhere else.
Read stories from actual expeditions, and learn about real deep-sea ocean explorers. Photo ©NOAA
Deep-Sea Vents Links
Exploring the Deep Frontier
Follow real scientists on their 21-day expedition to hydrothermal vents in the Pacific Ocean. Find out how vents work, what life forms hang out around them, and the high-tech tools used to explore the deep ocean.
Dive and Discover: Hydrothermal Vents
This site from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution gives a great overview of hydrothermal vents, how they work, and the life that can be found around them. The site also includes information about how hydrothermal vents were discovered, way back in 1977.
Hydrothermal Vent Systems: WHOI Featured Stories
This page features stories about specific Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution research on hydrothermal vents.
Photo Credits: Creatures with Chemistry, Take a Dive and Fiery Fountains images all courtesy of NOAA.