National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2020

Discovery of active hydrothermal vent fields along the Central Indian Ridge, 8°S-12°S

Kim, J., S.-K. Son, D. Kim, S.-J. Pak, O.H. Yu, S.L. Walker, J. Oh, S.K. Choi, K. Ra, Y. Ko, K.-H. Kim, and J.-H. Lee

Geochem. Geophys. Geosyst., 21(8), e2020GC009058, doi: 10.1029/2020GC009058, View online (2020)

Abstract. Four new hydrothermal vent fields were discovered on the slow spreading Central Indian Ridge (8–12°S; Segments 1–3), all located off‐axis on abyssal hill structures or Ocean Core Complexes (OCCs). Each site was characterized using seafloor observation (towed camera system), plume chemistry (Fe, Mn, and CH4; Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth sensor [CTD]/Miniature Autonomous Plume Recorder [MAPR]), and rock sampling (TVgrab/dredges). Different styles of venting on each segment reflect different geological settings, rock types, likely heat sources, and fluid pathways. The segment 1 field was located on the western flank of the axial valley at the base of OCC‐1‐1. High‐temperature venting was inferred from plume characteristics and extensive seafloor sulfide mineralization, but only diffuse venting was observed. This site appears to be a magmatic‐influenced basaltic‐hosted system despite its off‐axis location. Two low‐temperature diffusely venting sites were located on abyssal hills 6 and 9 km off‐axis on Segment 2. Plume particle, metal, and CH4 concentrations were all very low, suggesting dilution of hydrothermal fluids by intrusion of seawater into the highly permeable flank area fault zone. The “Onnuri Vent Field” (OVF), located at the summit of OCC‐3‐2, vented clear, low‐temperature fluids supporting abundant vent organisms (21 macrofaunal taxa). The plume particle signal was low to absent, but strong ORP anomalies correlated with high CH4 and low metal concentrations. Sulfide mineralization was present, which suggests both serpentinization and magmatic/lithospheric influence on fluid composition. The detachment fault is the likely pathway for hydrothermal fluid circulation at this off‐axis location. These new vent field discoveries, especially the OVF, contribute valuable information toward understanding Indian Ocean hydrothermal systems and their ecology/biogeography.

Plain Language Summary. We discovered four new hydrothermal vent fields along the slow spreading Central Indian Ridge. The different styles of hydrothermal venting discovered at each site reflect the different geological settings, types of surrounding rocks, and likely heat sources driving the hydrothermal circulation. Among the new vent fields, the “Onnuri Vent Field” is particularly interesting because the isolated location, unique style of venting, and abundant vent biology provide valuable new information for understanding vent ecology and biogeography of the Indian Ocean.

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