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

Research project: Hydrothermal vents on the world’s deepest seafloor spreading centre

Currently Active: 

In 2010 Cruise JC044 discovered two unique hydrothermal vents at the ultra-slow spreading Mid-Cayman Rise.  One, situated at 4960 mbsl, is the deepest yet discovered, and the other, at 2300 mbsl, is located on the Mount-Dent oceanic core complex will provide new insight into off-axis fluid flow.

(Source: M Hodgkinson)
Site Location

The deep site, called ‘Beebe', is a high temperature black smoker system and shows evidence for super-critical phase separation.  The off axis site, called ‘Von Damm', vents shimmering fluid and is thought to be a new type of vent site given its chimney and mound composition.





(Source: M Hodgkinson)
Beebe : Hydrothermal vent

Why study the Mid-Cayman Rise?

Beebe site:

  • Can be used as a natural lab to investigate the effects of supercriticality  on vent fluid composition
  • The increased seawater pressure could affect mound preservation/morphology/composition
  • Potential for further hydrothermal sites at this depth

Von Damm site:

  • Discovery of further off-axis venting offsets models for oceanic circulation
  • Changes in measured heat flux at mid-ocean ridges
  • Potential for fluid flow brought about by oceanic core complex development
(Source: M Hodgkinson)
Von Damm: Hydrothermal vent

Scientific aims and outcomes

  • Investigate composition of mounds, chimneys and host rocks - give an overview of fluid-rock interaction conditions
  • Develop detailed geological maps and investigate fluid flow controls from ROV video and AUV bathymetry
  • Determine ages of both systems
  • Compare with other known, similar vent sites, both active and in the geological record

Key Contacts

Mr Matthew Hodgkinson (Postgraduate Researcher)

Dr Bramley Murton (Project Supervisor)

Prof Steve Roberts (Project Supervisor)

PhDs and Other Opportunities


Associated research themes

Formation and Evolution of the Ocean Crust

Hydrothermal Processes and Mineral Deposits

Volcanic Processes

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