Voyage to the Deep: Hydrothermal Vents

Goal / Learning Objectives Questions
Materials Resources
Assignment Rubric


Goal / Learning Objectives

During this unit we will be exploring life and its adaptive evolution within the ocean. In particular, we will be looking at the deep sea floor around hydrothermal vents. As a result of this investigation students should:





You will be working in groups of 4-5 to research information about the deep ocean and life that develops there. The group will produce one paper, with everyone's name on it. You should type this document online at and share it with me (docfleetwood) as an editor. This paper will consist of the answers to the questions below as well as the following items:



Answer the following questions completely and in full sentences. You must write the question and follow it with the answer.

Reading Questions

1.  What is the ultimate source of energy in hydrothermal vent communities? Describe how Riftia pachyptila get their energy.
2.  Who is leading the Extreme 2000 mission?
3.  The Earth’s largest mountain range is where?  How long is it in Km?
4.  The ____________ is the most heat tolerant animal on Earth.  It can survive in an environment as hot as ______C (_____F)
5.  What is the term for one tectonic plate being forced under another? What is the result?
6.  Who is credited with building the first submarine?
7.  What do “black smokers” spew?
8.  How do hydrothermal vents form?
9.  Where is the “Extreme 2000” dive going to take place?
10.  At what depth was the deepest recorded fish found?
11.  What makes Archaea so unique?
12.  Why are scientists excited about the possibility that there are hydrothermal vents on Europa?
13.  How many hours of life support are there on Alvin for its crew?
14.  Who made the deepest dive in history?  How deep was it?
15.  Convert the British units of measure in the “How Deep is the Ocean?” article in the Geology section to metric units.
16.  Compare and contrast photosynthesis and chemosynthesis.
17.  Describe the Pompeii worm, its adaptations and the record it currently holds. What does the term 'thermophile' mean?
18.  Define the following words: bioluminescence, chemosynthesis, eelpout, hydrostatic, vent crab, microbe, Pompeii, photosynthesis, sulfur, symbiosis

Internet Research (

1.  Why can the water around a hydrothermal vent reach temperatures of 300-400 C and still not be boiling?
2.  What questions will crew member Liz McCliment be trying to answer?
3.  What type of scientist is Tim Shank and what factors is he interested in?
4.  What is the scientific name for the Vent Crab?  What must scientists do in order to keep the adult crabs safe in the lab at the University?
5.  Describe the plume and tube of a Tubeworm.  (hint - resources - nova\abyss)
6.  Describe bioluminescence and how it works chemically. (hint - extreme science site)
7.  Using one creature or life-form in the deep sea, describe it from two points of view: as an imaginative sailor in the early 1800s, and as a scientist of today. You may not choose the tubeworm, fangtooth, or crab. (
8.  There are reports of plans to mine hydrothermal vents for biotechnological research as well as gold.  As a famous oceanographer, you have been asked to provide a 30 to 60 second sound bite on your views of vent mining.  Are you for or against mining vents for minerals and biotechnological resources?  Why?  Prepare your statement for the new media.
            Industrial and medical applications:

Additional Questions

  1. Alvin will be traveling to a depth of 2.5 km (1.5 miles) to explore hydrothermal vents. It is critical that the navigators correctly aim the sub so that it will arrive at their selected destination.
  2. Assume Alvin travels 2.5 km to the bottom of the ocean and takes 2 hrs and 10 minutes to reach the bottom.
  3. To stay healthy, people need to breathe air that is approximately 30% oxygen. Aboard Alvin, an oxygen drip replaces the oxygen in the air as it is consumed. Your job is to regulate the amount of oxygen in the sub such that the aquanauts can breathe properly.
  4. Operating the research vessel Atlantis costs about $30,000 each day plus $8,000 for each dive. Assuming the sub dives 5 times per week (7 days) calculate the following:
  5. Alvin needs to be equipped to support human life for 216 man-hours. It is essential that the sub stock enough food to support the crew for this length of time. It is your job to determine the different types and quantities of food to be stocked.
  6. Hydrothermal vents are dynamic places that are constantly changing and evolving. New vents form while old vents die out as the geologic forces that created them move on. Given the relatively sedentary nature of most vent organisms, propose a mechanism by which they might colonize a newly formed vent.
  7. Some individuals have suggested that because the deep sea is so vast and generally inaccessible, it would make a good dumping ground for toxic, nuclear, and other waste materials. Do you think this is a good plan? Why or why not?



Resources - The page that contains this assignment. - The University of Delaware Extreme 2000 homepage. - Good info on animals and bioluminescence. - Good info on animals and vents and vent sites.