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Intriguing discoveries.


In the end, researchers spent the same amount of time aboard Oden as Noah spent on his ark: 40 days and nights (well, make that 40 days and no nights, MIT/WHOI graduate student Clay Kunz pointed out). The researchers did not find hydrothermal vents, but they did discover curious mats of yellowy-orange "fluff"- composed of microbes and/or material made by microbes, perhaps fed by a weak flow of chemical-rich fluids seeping out of the seafloor. A mosaic of images taken by Camper's cameras (top) shows yellow microbial mats lining the cracks between seafloor rocks. Camper also captured seafloor samples that scientists eagerly sought to analyze back in onshore labs. WHOI geochemist Susan Humphris (above left) and WHOI biologist Tim Shank examine samples that just arrived on deck from the seafloor. Microbiologist Elisabeth Helmke from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany (above right) scrapes orange deposits from a Gakkel Ridge rock snatched up by Camper's grabber. At right, a glass beaker holds orange microbial material slurped up by Camper's vacuum sampler, as well as tiny black shards of volcanic glass that covered large areas of the Gakkel Ridge seafloor. Chemical analyses of these may provide evidence of unusually explosive seafloor volcanism, which is rare under the tremendous pressure more than 2.5 miles below the ocean surface.

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Title Annotation:seafloor microbes
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2008
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