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Blue Ocean Expedition

Blue Ocean Expedition discovers new hydrothermal field in the Azores (06/21/2018)

Within the scope of the Oceano Azul scientific expedition, a new hydrothermal field was discovered in the Azores.

Located 570 meters deep, on the giant seamount, 60 miles from the island of Faial, this new hydrothermal field is an area of ​​high biological and mineral wealth.

It is the first time that an expedition organized by a Portuguese institution, led by Portuguese scientists and using ships and national means, locates a hydrothermal field in deep waters in our maritime territory.


Fig. 1 - Chimney of the new field where the hydrothermal activity is visible.

[Image courtesy of ROV "LUSO" Mission Structure for the Extension of the Continental Shelf]

The expedition is organized by the Oceano Azul Foundation in partnership with the Waitt Foundation and the National Geographic Pristine Seas , and in collaboration with the Portuguese Navy through the Hydrographic Institute , the Regional Government of the Azores and the Mission Structure for the Extension of the Continental Shelf (EMEPC) with the ROV "LUSO" . This is one of the most complete expeditions carried out in national waters, and aims to explore areas still little known in the Azores to promote marine conservation under the "Blue Azores" program.


Scientists from several national research centers, such as IMAR , MARE , CCMAR , CIBIO and the University of the Azores , and internationals from the University of Hawaii , the University of California at Santa Barbara , the University of Western Australia , participate in the expedition. and CSIC , IEO and Museu do Mar de Ceuta in Spain.

On board the ship " NRP Almirante Gago Coutinho " engaged in the mission of the Portuguese Sea Mapping Project of the Hydrographic Institute, the scientific team dedicated to the study of deep sea ecosystems discovered, through dives with the EMVC "LUSO" ROV, a new hydrothermal field.






Fig. 2 - Map of the Giant seamount (top right) showing the separation between the American and European plates

[Image provided by the Portuguese Navy Hydrographic Institute]










Fig. 3 - Diving of the ROV "LUSO" seen aft of the hydrographic vessel NRP "Almirante Gago Coutinho"

[Image courtesy of the Oceano Azul Foundation by Nuno Sá]


According to Emanuel Gonçalves, leader of the Oceano Azul Expedition and Administrator of the Oceano Azul Foundation, "this is an extraordinary discovery because this hydrothermal field is less shallow than others known in the Mid-Atlantic Dorsal and just 60 miles from the island of Faial ,


which for the scientific community represents a unique, more accessible opportunity, for us to get to know these ecosystems of which we know very little. This discovery reinforces the unique role of the Azores as a natural laboratory for the study of the ocean ".

Telmo Morato, coordinator of the Oceano Azul expedition team dedicated to deep-sea ecosystems and a researcher at IMAR and the University of the Azores, says that "hydrothermal fields are areas where hot fluids frequently related to volcanism emerge, rich in minerals that create the conditions for the development of a unique ecosystem that does not depend on sunlight. The hydrothermal field now discovered is composed of multiple chimneys of different heights. Hydrothermal fluids are transparent, slightly warmer than the outside and rich in carbon dioxide. the existence of bacteria associated with this hydrothermal field.


This discovery of the Oceano Azul expedition shows that there is still a lot to discover in the Portuguese sea, the Azores being a unique region for the study of the deep sea. "


Most of the hydrothermal fields are located in frontier areas with divergent tectonic plates, as is the case of the Mid-Atlantic Dorsal that separates the western group from the central group of the Azores Archipelago, precisely where the Giant seamount is located. They are areas of high biological and mineral wealth, true oases hidden in the deep ocean, which are usually found kilometers deep and hundreds of miles from coastal areas.


Currently, eight deep hydrothermal fields are known in the Portuguese sea off the Azores: "Lucky Strike" (the first to be discovered, in 1992), "Menez Gwen", "Rainbow", "Saldanha", "Ewan", "Bubbylon "," Seapress "and" Moytirra ". The scientific studies carried out in them, in which scientists from IMAR and the University of the Azores have played an important role over the years, represent important contributions to the knowledge of these ecosystems and the mineral resources associated with them.


Follow the diary of this expedition at

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