It could be a landscape on an alien world. Strange optical effects and dazzling mineral formations bloom on the edge of water so hot it would be steam if not for the pressure of all that deep ocean above it.
Researchers on board the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel Falkor recently captured some amazing snapshots of a field of hydrothermal vents roughly two kilometres (about 1.2 miles) beneath the surface of the Gulf of California.
The ecosystems surrounding bleeding cracks in the floor of the gulf have recently attracted attention from all around, both for their curious life forms and their mindblowing geology.
These massive 23-metre-tall (75 foot) volcanic chimneys are yet another example of a hidden part of the planet we’re only just beginning to comprehend.
“We discovered remarkable towers where every surface was occupied by some type of life,” says marine scientist Mandy Joye from the University of Georgia.
“The vibrant colour found on the ‘living rocks’ was striking, and reflects a diversity in biological composition as well as mineral distributions.”
Fluted shelves of mineral stained in brilliant shades; life fed not by sunlight but by the seep of liquid bubbling up from below; shimmering fluids pooling beneath rock shelves, refracting light like quicksilver mirrors.
Take a moment to fall in love with the view. Because there is a sad note to this story.
“Unfortunately, even in these remote and beautiful environments we saw copious amounts of trash including fishing nets, deflated Mylar balloons, and even a discarded Christmas trees,” says Joye.
Because of course they did. Even in the cold, crushing shadows of a sunless world, there are signs of our waste.
For more photos of this beautiful world, click here.