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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Hydrothermal Vent Geochemistry South of the Antarctic Polar Front

Currently Active: 

In the last 35 years of hydrothermal exploration ~277 active vent fields have been reported from a range of global tectonic settings. Although Circum-Antarctic ridges represent nearly 40% of the Earth's ~58,000km ridge crest tehy remain severely understudied; only 10 sites of hydrothermal activity are currently known, or inferred to be present at high southern latitudes. In 2010, the JC42 cruise investigated the norternmost and southernmost segments of the East Scotia Ridge (ESR) and collected vent fluid, chimney sulfide deposits and hydrothermally influenced sediment samples.

Chimneys composed of native sulfur at the Kemp Caldera (JC42 Science Party, 2010)
Hydrothermal vents

Specific Aims

  • Determine the mechanisms for sediment formation along the ESR in relation to local hydrothermal venting.
  • Investigate the source, formation, and biogeochemical cycling of sulfur in chimney and sediment deposits using stable sulfur isotopes.
  • Down-core variations in pore fluid chemistry have been studied to determine the relative influence of seawater and diffusing hydrothermal fluids on the interstitial waters, at sites throughout the ESR


Location of the a) ESR system and b) specific study sites E2 and E9 and the Kemp Caldera (After Leat et al., 1999)
Location Map

Why target the hydrothermal systems of the ESR?

Hydrothermal systems of the Southern Ocean comprise a viriety of chemosynthetic habitats from high-temperature, bare-rock hydrothermal vents on the East Scotia Ridge to more diffuse, sediment-hosted hydrothermal activity in the Bransfield Strait. These systems potentially act as stepping-stones in the migration of chemosynthetically-derived genetic material between the sepaeate and distinct biogeographic provinces on the world's oceans.

Photos of: a) Sulfur-­rich sediment, b) hydrothermal chimney, c) mineral phases, d) So deposit from the Kemp Caldera. Source, Barry Marsh.

Key Contacts

Ms. Laura Hepburn (Postgraduate research student)
Dr. Adrian Boyce
Prof. Richard Pencost
Dr. David Pearce

PhDs and Other Opportunities


Associated research themes

Hydrothermal Processes and Mineral Deposits

Volcanic Processes

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