Abundant Hydrothermal Venting in the Southern Ocean Near 62°S/159°E on the Australian-Antarctic Ridge

Friday, 19 December 2014
Edward T Baker1, Doshik Hahm2, Tae Siek Rhee2, Sung-hyun Park2, John E Lupton3, Sharon L Walker4 and Hakkyum Choi2, (1)Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, Seattle, WA, United States, (2)KOPRI Korea Polar Research Institute, Incheon, South Korea, (3)NOAA/PMEL, Newport, OR, United States, (4)NOAA/PMEL, Seattle, WA, United States
Circum-Antarctic Ridges (CARs) comprise almost one-third of the global Mid-Ocean Ridge, yet remain terra incognita for hydrothermal activity and chemosynthetic ecosystems. The InterRidge Vents Database lists only 3 confirmed (visualized) and 35 inferred (plume evidence) active sites along the ~21,000 km of CARs. Here, we report on a multi-year effort to locate and characterize hydrothermal activity on two 1st-order segments of the Australian-Antarctic Ridge that are perhaps more isolated from other known vent fields than any other vent site on the Mid-Ocean Ridge. KR1 is a 300-km-long segment near 62°S/159°E, and KR2 a 90-km-long segment near 60°S/152.5°E. We used profiles collected by Miniature Autonomous Plume Recorders (MAPRs) on rock corers in March and December of 2011 to survey each segment, and an intensive CTD survey in Jan/Feb 2013 to pinpoint sites and sample plumes on KR1. Optical and oxidation-reduction potential (ORP, aka Eh) anomalies indicate multiple active sites on both segments. Seven profiles on KR2 found 3 sites, each separated by ~25 km. Forty profiles on KR1 identified 13 sites, some within a few km of each other. The densest site concentration on KR1 occurred along a relatively inflated, 90-km-long section near the segment center. CTD tows covered 20 km of the eastern, most inflated portion of this area, finding two 6-km-long zones centered near 158.6°E and 158.8°E with multiple plume anomalies. Three ORP anomalies within 50 m of the seafloor indicate precise venting locations. We call this area the Mujin “Misty Harbor” vent field. Vent frequency sharply decreases away from Mujin. 3He/heat ratios determined from 20 plume samples in the Mujin field were mostly <0.015 fM/J, indicative of chronic venting, but 3 samples, 0.021-0.034 fM/J, are ratios typical of a recent eruption. The spatial density of hydrothermal activity along KR1 and KR2 is similar to other intermediate-rate spreading ridges. We calculate the plume incidence (ph) along KR1 and KR2 as the mean of the fraction of MAPR casts detecting a plume in each 2nd-order segment. For all 6 segments, ph=0.37±0.25, consistent with the prediction of 0.33 from the global trend of ph for a spreading rate of 68 mm/yr.