These ocean vents send out water at temperatures that are much higher than the temperature at which water boils under normal atmospheric pressure. The sea vents are usually called “black smokers” or “white smokers” depending on the minerals that are contained in the water they release. Those minerals nourish various sea life in the area. The white smoker in the picture is in the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument in the Pacific Ocean. It is emitting barium, calcium, and silicon as well as carbon dioxide.
The hydrothermal vents are primarily along the mid-ocean ridges which are formed by tectonic plates that are moving apart (diverging). Tectonic plates are massive sections of the Earth’s crust which move relative to each other diverging, converging, or transforming in various ways. It’s along the boundaries of those plates that most earthquakes and volcanic activities occur. As the plates diverge along the ocean ridge, they move outward and subduct (move under) other plates. This subduction forms trenches which are the lowest areas of the ocean floor.
Yesterday (April 5, 2018) there was a magnitude 5.3 earthquake off the coast of California near Los Angeles. No serious damage resulted, but scientists say there is a one-in-twenty chance that quake could be the foreshock of a larger quake. This brings up the question of why we have earthquakes. Did God do a poor job of designing the Earth?
The answer to that question is, “No.” Earthquakes result from factors that are essential for life on Earth. Earth’s crust consists of tectonic plates floating on the mantle, which is a region of molten rock. Under the continents, the Earth’s crust averages 18 miles (30 km) thick. Under the oceans, the crust is only about 3 miles (5 km) thick. The mass of the crust puts great pressure on the molten rock in the mantle causing it to be very viscous. If a crack opens in the crust, the molten rock will move upward, become more liquid as it is under less pressure. Then it may burst from the surface creating a volcano.
Volcanoes create mountains, and so does the movement of the tectonic plates. The tectonic plates moving against each other also produce earthquakes. Sometimes the plates will move against each other horizontally. We call that a slip-strike earthquake and that is what happens in the San Andreas fault in California. The quake that just occurred was a thrust quake where one side of a fault thrusts over the top of the one next to it. The Rocky Mountains and the Himalayas were pushed up by movement of the tectonic plates.
By the creation of mountains, the Earth has been continuously renewed. On the surface of the continents, erosion, and weathering break up solid rock to produce sand, clay, and ultimately topsoil. Erosion cuts down the mountains and deposits sediment in the lower elevations. Further erosion carries the sediment out into the oceans. In the deepest parts of the ocean, there are trenches. Huge amounts of sediment settle into those trenches, but they never get full. That’s because the sediment sliding into the trenches is finding its way down into the mantle.
The movement of sediment replenishes the mantle with new material which then resupplies the continents with new rock. Volcanoes erupt bringing recycled minerals and nutrients to the surface. Volcanic soils are the richest soils on Earth. This system has also brought the iron and other essential minerals into the Earth’s crust.
In 1910 an Arctic explorer by the name of Alfred Wegener coined the term continental drift. Wegener saw the same fossils in South America that he had seen in western Africa, and he proposed that the two continents had been connected at one time. Wegener’s proposal was ridiculed by the scientists of that day who saw the Earth’s crust as too solid to allow any model of that kind to work.
Over the years studies of earthquake epicenters have shown that there is movement of huge slabs of rock called tectonic plates. The rock material bends more and more steeply until the slabs eventually melt into the mantle–the molten interior of the earth. These slabs and everything on them do in fact move.
In 1952 an ocean cartographer by the name of Marie Tharp began making profiles of the Atlantic Ocean floor going from west to east. Her profiles showed a ridge down the center of the Atlantic with younger material in the center and older material on both sides. She proposed that molten material was coming up from the mantle and pushing the two slabs of ocean floor material away from each other. Where the slabs hit the edges of the continent, the material is deflected downward making trenches in the floor of the ocean.
All of these discoveries flew in the face of the accepted geological theory at the time, and Tharp was ridiculed. In time scientists came to understand that the Earth is made up of plates sliding along the surface and sliding down into the mantle when a continent is reached.
There is a message in all of this that what is considered to be scientifically impossible, sometimes turns out to be true. At the same time, a pet theory can ultimately be proven incorrect. One of the beauties of science is that eventually it cleans up its own mistakes.
Another message is that sometimes God addresses a problem long before humans know there is a problem. This whole process is one of the greatest recycling systems of all time. As nutrients and minerals get eroded off the continents, they are deposited on the ocean floor. The movement of the ocean floor ultimately returns this material to the mantle to be recycled back to the Earth’s surface.