Near the summit of a seamount west of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a jagged landscape of towers rises from the darkness.
Their creamy carbonate walls and columns appear ghostly blue in the light of a remote-controlled vehicle sent to explore.
They vary in height small piles are the size of toadstools to a large monolith It stands 60 meters (about 200 feet) tall. This is the Lost City.
Discovered by scientists in 2000 more than 700 meters (2,300 ft) below the surface, The Lost City Hydrothermal Field is the longest-lived known vent environment in the ocean. Nothing else like it has been found.
For at least 120,000 years, and perhaps longer, the rising mantle in this part of the world has been reacting with seawater to blow hydrogen, methane and other dissolved gases into the ocean.
In the cracks and crevices of the bed vents, the hydrocarbons feed new microbial communities even without oxygen.
Chimneys emit hot gases up to 40 °C (104°F) home to an abundance of snails and crustaceans. Larger animals such as crabs, shrimps, sea urchins and eels are rare but still present.
Despite the extreme nature of the environment, it seems to be full of life, and researchers think it is worth our attention and protection.
While other similar hydrothermal vents likely exist elsewhere in the world’s oceans, this is the only one that has been found by remotely operated vehicles to date.
The hydrocarbons produced by the Lost City’s vents were formed not by atmospheric carbon dioxide or sunlight, but by chemical reactions in the deep sea.
Since hydrocarbons are the building blocks of life, this opens up the possibility that life could have originated in such a habitat. And not only on our own planet.
Microbiologist William Brazelton: “This is an example of the kind of ecosystem that might be active on Enceladus or Europa.” he said Smithsonian In 2018, referring to the moons of Saturn and Jupiter.
“And maybe mars in the past.”
It is called in contrast to submarine volcanic vents black smokersThe ecosystem of the Lost City, also referred to as a possible first habitat, does not depend on the heat of the magma.
Black smokers mainly produce minerals rich in iron and sulphur, while the chimneys of the Lost City Up to 100 times more hydrogen and methane.
The calcite voids of the Lost City are also much, much larger than those of the black smokers, indicating that they have been active for much longer.
The tallest of the monoliths is named after the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon, and stretches over 60 meters in height.
To the northeast of the tower there is a cliff with short-term activities. University of Washington researchers describe The vents here form “delicate, multifaceted carbonate growths that extend outward like the fingers of upturned hands,” as if “weeping” with fluid.
Unfortunately, scientists are not the only ones who are attracted to this unusual terrain.
In 2018, it was announced that Poland earned his rights Mine the deep sea around The Lost City. Although the actual thermal site itself has no valuable resources to mine, destroying the city’s surroundings can have unintended consequences.
This is the Lost City, an ecosystem that rises in the middle of the North Atlantic. It is completely unique, life has not been found anywhere else on Earth. And if someone wanted to destroy it? There is nothing you can do about it. There are no laws. No result. Welcome to the high seas… pic.twitter.com/mdG5wOsr5h
— Open Ocean Exploration (@RebeccaRHelm) August 22, 2022
Scientists warn that any plumes or waste generated by mining operations could easily wash away the prime habitat.
Some experts therefore calls List the Lost City as a World Heritage Site to protect the natural wonder before it’s too late.
The lost city has stood as a testament to the enduring power of life for tens of thousands of years.
It would be like us to destroy it.
An earlier version of this article was published in August 2022.
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