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Juan de Fuca Ridge


Stretching 300 miles along the coast of Washington and Oregon, the Juan de Fuca Ridge is an underwater volcanic mountain range. Created by the separation of the Juan de Fuca Plate and the Pacific Plate, the Juan de Fuca Ridge is home to an extraordinary community of life whose source of energy is not the sun, but sulfur-rich chemicals. Deriving energy through chemosynthesis, bacteria form the basis of a deep-sea food chain that supports unusual creatures such as red-and-white tubeworms, deep-sea crabs, and mussels. Undersea springs called hydrothermal vents release scalding plumes of 400°F lava-heated water. Carrying sulfur-bearing minerals, the plumes look like black clouds and the vents are thus named “black smokers.” On contact with frigid seawater, the minerals crystallize and settle on the seafloor around the vent openings. Over time, the mineral deposits grow like chimneys to heights of a hundred feet or more. The chemistry of the ocean is controlled, in part, by this transfer of heat and chemicals through hydrothermal vents, making undersea hot springs important to understanding ocean systems.



Ecological Uniqueness
Exploration and Research
Oceanographic and Bathymetric Features



Black Smokers
Expedition to the Underwater Volcanoes of the Northeast Pacific
Biogeography of Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vent Faunas
The Cascade Episode - 37 mya to present
Hydrothermal Vents on the Ocean Floor
Deep Sea Hydrothermal Vents



Hydrothermal Vent Video Clips - From NOAA voyages to the Juan de Fuca Ridge




Black smokers and tube worms. Photo: NOAA

The tube worm Riftia. Photo: NSF, Nicolle Rager Fuller

Divers releasing submersible Alvin. Photo: NOAA