Deep in the waters along a volcanic ridge at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, marine explorers using a remote-controlled vehicle to survey largely unexplored areas have found a pattern of holes in the sand.
While diving near the Portuguese mainland, north of the Azores, on July 23, they spotted about a dozen sets of holes that looked like a series of lines on the ocean floor at a depth of 2.5 miles.
Then about a week later, on Thursday, there were four more sightings on the Azores Plateau, the underwater terrain where three tectonic plates meet. These holes were about a mile deep and about 300 miles from where the expedition’s first discovery was made.
The question scientists pose to themselves and the public in their publications excitement and FacebookThis is: What creates these marks on the ocean floor?
“The origin of the holes has surprised scientists,” the post on Twitter from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ocean Exploration project said. “The holes appear to be man-made, but the small piles of sediment around them indicate that they were dug … made by something.”
NOAA spokesperson Emily Crum said nearly two decades ago, about 27 miles from where the current expedition was first spotted, scientists spotted similar holes during an expedition.
But the passage of time has not provided clear answers, said Michael Vecchione, a NOAA deep-sea biologist who participated in this project and is also part of this latest expedition.
“Something important is going on there and we don’t know what it is,” said Dr. said Vecchione. “This highlights the fact that there are still mysteries out there.”
The holes are just one of the questions scientists explore on an ambitious ocean expedition while exploring the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a section of ocean. huge deep ocean mountain range It stretches for more than 10,000 miles under the Atlantic Ocean.
NOAA experts seek answers three times The Journey to Ridge 2022, which begins in May and ends in September, they say is looking for cruises that take them from the waters of Newport, RI to the Azores and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean.
Explorers want to know what goes on along perpetually underwater volcanoes, and what happens when life-sustaining heat-generating geological processes are stopped.
They pay close attention to deep-sea coral and sponge communities, which are “some of the most valuable marine ecosystems on Earth,” said Derek Sowers, expedition coordinator on the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer.
Dr. Sowers said expeditions such as the Ridge’s Journey projects are “fundamental” for understanding the planet’s biodiversity and “new compounds produced by all these life forms.”
And they want to learn more about areas where seawater is heated by magma, where deep-sea life derives energy from this source, and where chemicals are present instead of the sun like most life on Earth.
“This has broadened our understanding of the conditions under which life can occur on other planets,” says Dr. said Sowers.
After the agency turned to social media to engage the public, dozens of comments came in, some of which led to speculation. Are the holes man-made? Could they be a sign from extraterrestrials? Traces of a submarine? Could they be a “breathing hole”?deep-sea creature that buries itself under the sand“
That last guess didn’t have to be so forced, Dr. said Vecchione. Inside Paper about holes detected in 2004, Mr. Vecchione and his co-author, Odd Aksel Bergstad, a former researcher at the Marine Research Institute in Norway, have proposed two main hypotheses as to why the holes exist. Both involved marine life walking or swimming on the sediment and drilling holes, or the opposite scenario, burrowing into the sediment and drilling holes.
Saying that the holes seen on Thursday appear to have been pushed out from the bottom, Dr. said Vecchione.
The remote-controlled vehicle’s suction device collected sediment samples to examine the holes for organisms, Dr. said Sowers.
Dr. Vecchione said he was pleased to encounter the holes in the ocean floor again, but was “a little disappointed” that scientists were still unable to provide an explanation.
“It reinforces the idea that there is a mystery we will one day solve,” he said. “But we haven’t figured it out yet.”
It will be one last dive live broadcastcontinues to be performed in the second run of the series, NOAA said. The third expedition starts in August. 7.
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