, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 137-153

Hydrothermal Vent Geology and Biology at Earth’s Fastest Spreading Rates

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Abstract

Earth’s fastest present seafloor spreading occurs along the East Pacific Rise near 31°–32° S. Two of the major hydrothermal plume areas discovered during a 1998 multidisciplinary geophysical/hydrothermal investigation of these mid-ocean ridge axes were explored during a 1999 Alvin expedition. Both occur in recently eruptive areas where shallow collapse structures mark the neovolcanic axis. The 31° S vent area occurs in a broad linear zone of collapses and fractures coalescing into an axial summit trough. The 32° S vent area has been volcanically repaved by a more recent eruption, with non-linear collapses that have not yet coalesced. Both sites occur in highly inflated areas, near local inflation peaks, which is the best segment-scale predictor of hydrothermal activity at these superfast spreading rates (150 mm/yr).