The race to revisit the ocean depths

 作者:熊布驽     |      日期:2019-04-04 06:19:05
By Jonathan Fildes “WE GOT a telegram. It said: ‘Return to port. Unload all goddamn geophysicists and geochemists. Biologists coming’,” recalls Jerry van Andel, a researcher on board the US submersible ALVIN in February 1977 when a telegram arrived from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. It was the confirmation he had been waiting for. Van Andel and his team of geologists were in the Galapagos Islands cruising the Pacific Ocean floor. On the first of several planned dives, they stumbled upon a major geological discovery that would turn marine biology on its head. What they found were hydrothermal vents – seeps of hot, mineral-rich water that support whole communities of strange creatures way down in the depths. “At some point the pilot pointed out lots of oval, white stones,” van Andel recalls. “We took a closer look and they turned out to be clam shells, about a foot across – the biggest clams I’d ever seen.” Alongside were huge golden shrimp and exotic-looking fish, all living in total darkness more than 2000 metres below the surface. The discovery showed these regions are far more than just dark, lifeless deserts, and completely changed the way scientists view the deep. ALVIN went on to become the most successful manned submersible ever. Now, 40 years after its launch, it is finally being retired. Its replacement is due to start work in 2009. But while the design team is already busy, US dominance of the deep might be coming to an end. The China Ocean Mineral Resources R & D Association (COMRA) based in Beijing has almost finished its own sub,