What creatures lurk in the Mariana Trench?
Near freezing temperatures, complete darkness, and the pressure of 4 SUVs on your big toe!
If this sounds like beginner salsa with an elephant in Prague in November, you’d be on to something in a random kind of way. Your partner’s trunk would bare a slight resemblance to one of the residents of the deep: the tubeworm.
Banquets of freshly decomposing carbon-based life forms provide the bacterial feast these segment-wriggling invertebrates need to thrive. And thrive is what they do at 7 miles deep. They convert oxygen, hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and carbon dioxide (CO2) into inorganic molecules which their host worm munches on. A process known as chemosynthesis.
Unlike humans, a cocktail of hydrogen sulfide doesn’t kill the host. It would be in our best interest to let our deep ocean friends do their cleanup work so that the H2S and earth-warming CO2 stay in the deep.
If we consider our planet to be a microcosm of the universe forever expanding, then the hydrothermal vents erupting at the bottom of the deep ocean represent life expanding into our oceans. These nutrient rich trenches could very well be the first nibbles which supply the entire food web up the water column and ultimately into our tummies.
So when humanity views these black smokers solely (not soul-ly) as a source of copper and gold, their monumental significance is lost.
Exploration and study in my opinion are the only conscionable “uses” of the deep ocean frontier. Let’s leave the wild west tactics to the gold rushes of the past and help develop new economies based on exploration, education, eco-tourism, and a healthy sustainable food supply for humans and sea creatures alike.
Here’s to those who are curious and courageous (crazy!) enough to visit the depths and live to tell the story for all of our benefit and enjoyment.Let's make a splash!