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On the scent of Gorda ridge vents.

Hunting for hydrothermal vents in the ocean is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. But scientists who went on a cruise last May think they are on the trail of two possible vents along the Gorda ridge, a seafloor-spreading ridge off the coast of Oregon.

With the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) ship Surveyor, a team of researchers collected water samples from two areas on the northern end of the ridge that exhibit some of the signs of nearby hydrothermal activity: high concentrations of manganese, iron particles and dissolved radon gas.

"We haven't found any vents yet," says chemical oceanographer Robert Collier of Oregon State University in Corvallis. "But in my mind there is very strong evidence for them." According to Collier, manganese levels in these two spots were 10 times higher than in normal seawater and were comparable to that found within 5 kilometers of vents on the nearby Juan de Fuca ridge. The researchers are now trying to arrange another cruise to narrow down this range before the U.S. Geological Survey scours the regions with more refined instruments later this summer.

The Gorda ridge is of scientific interest in part because its spreading rate--the rate at which new ocean floor is created--is slow, and the best-studied vents have been along faster-spreading ridges. The possibility of vents along the Gorda ridge has also stirred up political and public interest because it is the only ridge lying within the United States' Exclusive Economic Zone. A task force of federal and state agencies plans to study the economic and environmental impacts of mining mineral-rich vents along the ridge if they are found.
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Title Annotation:hydrothermal vents in the ocean
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 6, 1985
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