A scientific expedition found in December 2000 a very strange landscape. Towers of up to 60 meters emerge on one of the seamounts from mid atlantic ridge. The researchers named their finding the “Lost City”.
Despite their appearance, these formations are natural. Each tower is a hydrothermal vent which spews hot liquid filled with hydrogen gas and other elements out of the top.
The “Lost City”, located 700 meters deephas the tallest and oldest vents ever seen (they formed 120,000 years ago or more), according to the University of Washington. Unlike the other types of hydrothermal vents, this place is not fueled by volcanic activity.
Vents form when seawater comes into contact with rocks in the Earth’s mantle, generating gas and energy. A process known as serpentinization. Then, the calcium-rich water from these sites reacts with the carbon in the seawater and ends up forming chimneys, like the ones seen in the “Lost City.”
Origin of life on Earth and beyond
The hydrogen that comes out of these natural towers serves as an ample source of energy for the microbes that live in this ecosystem. Also, methane is released, a gas that feeds various types of life.
Scientists have a special interest in trillions of microorganisms that thrive in the “Lost City”, even in the absence of oxygen, as recent studies indicate that life on Earth may have originated in extreme conditions such as those found in hydrothermal vents.
And our planet would not be the only one that has this type of natural formations.
“This is an example of a type of ecosystem that could be active right now on Enceladus (moon of Saturn) or Europa (moon of Jupiter),” he told the magazine. Smithsonian Magazine William Brazelton, a microbiologist at the University of Utah.
Brazelton added that these conditions could also have been present on early Mars, more than 3 billion years ago, when the Red Planet had deep lakes and rivers.
In 2018, it was announced that Poland had won the rights to exploit the bed around the “Lost City”.
Although no precious resources have been identified in the hydrothermal field, any excavation or unloading in its surroundings could terribly affect this natural wonder, summarizes the portal Science Alert.
For this reason, some experts request that the “Lost City” be listed as a World Heritage Site, with the aim of protecting this ecosystem before it is too late.