Ice That Burns

The Okeanos science team comes across a rocky outcrop, and discovers a huge abundance of animals that are usually around gas seeps or methane seeps.

The NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer is exploring the Gulf of Mexico for the entire month of April. From the first splash of remotely operated vehicle D2, the discoveries have been truly amazing.

Within a very narrow range of special depths, temperatures and chemical compositions, the conditions can be just right for a spectacular chemical reaction. Once released, methane bubbles from below the seabed can become frozen and suspended in structures of ice. Confused? It’s a tough one to explain. (The video clip will help.) These methane bubbles can be “trapped” in cage-like crystal structures within the ice, called methane hydrate or methane ice. Methane hydrates are very interesting. In the Gulf of Mexico, sites like this are potential sources of highly concentrated energy, naturally occurring thousands of meters below the surface of our ocean. The future for these deeply fascinating areas are unknown. One obvious statement though: they are breathtaking.

Watch below and experience this wonderful discovery with the science team.

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