Signs of Recent Volcanism and Hydrothermal Activity Along the Eastern Segment of the Galapagos Spreading Center

TitleSigns of Recent Volcanism and Hydrothermal Activity Along the Eastern Segment of the Galapagos Spreading Center
Publication TypePoster - Conference
AuthorsRaineault, NA, Smart, C, Mayer, LA, Ballard, R, Fisher, CR, Marsh, L, Shank, TM
Conference Name2016 Fall Meeting, American Geophysical Union (AGU)
PaginationSan Francisco, CA
Conference DatesDecember 12-16
PublisherAmerican Geophysical Union
Conference LocationSan Francisco, CA
Keywordsgalpagos, hydrothermal activity, volcanism

Since the initial discovery of the Galápagos Spreading Center (GSC) vents in 1977, large-scale disturbances resulting from eruptive and tectonic activity have both destroyed and created vent habitats along the GSC. In 2015, the E/V Nautilus returned to the GSC with remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to explore 17 kilometers of the rift valley from the Rosebud site in the west, to a previously unexplored temperature anomaly east of the Tempus Fugit vent site. In the years to over a decade since scientists last visited the Rosebud, Rose Garden, and Tempus Fugit sites, there were many changes. Most notably, the Rosebud site, where scientists found a nascent vent community and left site markers in 2002, was apparently covered with glassy basaltic sheet flows. In addition to visual exploration, oceanographic sensor measurements and direct sampling, we used the ROV Hercules imaging suite, comprised of stereo cameras and a structured light laser sensor to map an area of diffuse flow in the Tempus Fugit field (100 m x 150 m). The centimeter-level photographic and bathymetric maps created with this system, along with ROV HD video, samples, and environmental sensors, documented hydrothermal activity and changes in biological community structure (e.g., Riftia tubeworms observed in nascent stages of community development in 2011 were now, in 2015, in greater abundance (with tubes almost 4 m in length). The detection of active venting and associated faunal assemblages will provide insight into the temporal and spatial variability of venting activity at the Tempus Fugit site. On a visual survey of the Rift east of the Tempus Fugit site, extinct sulfide chimney structures were discovered and sampled. There were several chimneys and sulfide deposits in a span of over 8 km that ranged in height from over a half meter to 1.5 m tall. Diffuse flow hosting white and blue bacterial mats was observed near the chimneys complexes. The base of a large chimney structure, venting white fluids, as well as adjacent chemically-stained sediments supported vent-endemic fauna including the Pompeii worm (Alvinella pompejana) and other polychaete worms, along with pycnogonids, rat-tail fish, and galatheid crabs. This discovery provided the first evidence that the eastern segment of the GSC may have contained high-temperature, black smoker vents.