National Geographic : 1996 Oct
Hill Geologic forces have heaved and cracked the Gulf's continental slope, creating a habitat for mussels at the brine pool marked at right and for tube , worms at nearby Bush 1 Hill. Similar communi ties punctuate much Depth of the slope. 91'47'w 27'13'N NOA 48MILES Getting Down to Business Reeled onto the mother ship at day's end, a submersible holds the catch in its collection box, foreground. Scientists waiting on deck will rush specimens in buckets of cold water to the ship's lab. Their experiments depend on two dives a day during a yearly cruise of just a few weeks. "You learn to ask questions real efficiently," notes author Chuck Fisher. When researchers first trawled this area a dozen years ago, they expected a small haul of sea life sickened by oil. They got just the opposite. "Nets were so full of shells and tube worms they were threat ening to rip," says Fisher. Kin to the short-lived colo nies at volatile hydrothermal vents (GEOGRAPHIC, November 1994), mussel and tube worm communities here thrive for centuries, supported by the steady seep of gases. DIVE TIMEON JOHNSON-SEA-LINKCOURTESYHARBOR BRANCHOCEANOGRAPHICINSTITUTIONAND NOAA rED STATES 91o00' w \28000'N <r s.