Image of Hydrothermal Vent Samples Hydrothermal Vent Samples
Hydrothermal Vent Samples, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 1977

“There’s no other place on the planet like this, yet we know little about how young organisms move around, assemble, and form new communities.” – Timothy Shank

For the historic 1977 Galapagos Hydrothermal Expedition, a team of scientists descended in Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s deep submergence vehicle ALVIN to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean to view active hydrothermal vents for the first time. These scientists discovered completely unknown biological communities and saw firsthand their adaptations to extreme conditions that no one believed could support life. The WHOI team, which included MIT Professor John Edmund and colleague Tanya Atwater, soon announced the existence of a new ecosystem—one supported by chemosynthesis—which has revolutionized our understanding of the ecosystem, sea life, and chemistry of oceans.

The specimens of tube worms and large clams on display are not from that first expedition. Professor John Edmond collected the deep vent chimney in 1979 during one of several follow-up expeditions with ALVIN on the East Pacific Rise some 1,800 miles north of the Galapagos Ridge. It is one of the first black smoker chimney samples ever collected.

On loan from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Chimney courtesy James Broda, Sea Floor Samples Laboratory. Tube Worms and Clams courtesy Timothy Shank,  Shank Molecular Ecology and Evolution Laboratory.

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