In 2010, scientists found the deepest known hydrothermal vents, some 5 kilometres down beneath the waves of the Caribbean in the Cayman Trough.
“In a nutshell, the Mid-Cayman Rise displays perhaps the broadest range of mid-ocean ridge geologic processes all active in the same place,” said German. “It makes a perfect natural laboratory in which to study all kinds of aspects of hydrothermal flow.- Oceanus Magazine
Less than one hundred and ninety (190) miles and within its territorial waters defined as its Exclusive Economic Zone, west of Negril Point between Jamaica and Cayman Island lies the largest spread of super-heated hot water vents in the world, capable of producing well over fifty two (52 GW) Gigawatts or some 52,000 Mega Watt of energy.
The technology to develop and harness this vast source of clean renewable energy is available in the form of repurposing deep ocean oil rig platform.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) an Exclusive Economic Zone is defined as that area of the ocean “beyond and adjacent to its territorial sea that extends seaward up to 200 nm from its baselines (or out to a maritime boundary with another coastal State).
Within its EEZ, a coastal State has: (a) sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring, exploiting, conserving and managing natural resources, whether living or nonliving, of the seabed and subsoil and the superjacent waters and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents and winds; (b) jurisdiction as provided for in international law with regard to the establishment and use of artificial islands, installations, and structures, marine scientific research, and the protection and preservation of the marine environment, and (c) other rights and duties provided for under international law.”
The Cayman Trough is the world’s deepest undersea volcanic rift, found on the seabed between the Cayman Islands and Jamaica. At its lowest point, the pressure is equivalent to the weight of a large family car pressing down on every square inch.
The Mid-Cayman Rise is part of Earth’s mid-ocean ridge mountain chain, where volcanic eruptions create new oceanic crust that pushes tectonic plates apart. But here, seafloor spreading can also happen without eruptions: As tectonic forces pull neighboring plates apart, rocks deep within Earth’s crust and mantle can slide upward, becoming exposed at the existing seafloor.
“The two plates are simply spreading apart along faults that permit one plate to slide out from under the other,” said German. Scientists theorize that along some slow-spreading ridges, this kind of process creates unusually thin seafloor. That allows water to percolate down to rocks heated by volcanism below. The water picks up chemical from the rocks and re-circulate and vent at the seafloor.
The extreme depths and different mineral composition of the seafloor along the Mid- Cayman Rise have produced many different kinds of vents within a relatively short span of seafloor. Researchers on this cruise concentrated their efforts at two sites, one of which, the Piccard vent field, is the deepest known hydrothermal site, at nearly 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) deep. The fluids gushing from some of the vents at this site were found to be just above 400°C (750°F), among the hottest vents known.
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