The deep secrets of the Cayman Trough to be revealed

February 06, 2013

The RRS James Cook sets sail today (6 February 2013) for the Cayman Trough to look at the hottest and deepest hydrothermal vents on the planet.

Scientists from the National Oceanography Centre and the University of Southampton discovered the vents back in 2010. The new team, led by Dr Jon Copley, are returning with high definition cameras and sampling equipment to investigate the vents more closely.

The Mid-Cayman Rise is the deepest known site of volcanic activity reaching to depths of around 6,000 metres. This has implications for the physics and chemistry of the hydrothermal fluids emitted by the vents, and in turn, the organisms that use chemosynthetic energy sources.

The vents are located in an isolated trough in the Caribbean. Interestingly for the scientists, the area was linked to the Pacific Ocean before the closure of the Isthmus of Panama some three million years ago. The team will be using the deep-diving remotely operated vehicle Isis to investigate the communities hosted by the vents. Isis has been designed to work to depths down to 6,500 metres.

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