Third Pod from the Sun

Third Pod from the Sun

Rifts Beneath the Ocean Floor

February 15, 2019


Kathy Crane is a true adventurer. As one of the first women in the field of marine geophysics in the 1970s, she hypothesized and then helped discover the existence of hydrothermal vents on the Galápagos Rift along the East Pacific Rise in the mid-1970s and was one the first people to see many of the strange creatures that make their home in this improbable environment.

Using a temperature-monitoring system that she developed for a a deep-tow seafloor towing system, she discovered temperature anomalies, as well as seafloor images of volcanic features, which provided strong support for her hypothesis about the existence of hydrothermal vents – cracks in the crust of the deep ocean floor where tectonic plates move away or towards one another, thereby releasing by hot magma that forms vents that heat the surrounding cold seawater.

Aboard the submersible Alvin, she also discovered never before seen animal life – mussels, clams, and most beautifully, tube worms – where it was once thought impossible, all of which led to led to the discovery of the biological process of chemosynthesis. Of the tube worms, Kathy said “they looked like roses. Pristine white stems that were part of the worm, and they were fixed holdfast onto the basalt rocks below them, and at the top was a head that was scarlet red with, looked like, pink petals coming out, which is where it got all its nutrients and everything taking the chemistry off of the ocean water. Absolutely beautiful place.”

Throughout, she had to deal with scientists sabotaging each other, build tools never used in the deepest marine environments, and survive aboard sea rickety research vessels. This episode of Third Pod has it all!