The majority of known high-temperature hydrothermal vents occur at mid-ocean ridges and back-arc spreading centers, typically at water depths from 2000 to 4000 meters. Compared with 30 years of hydrothermal research along spreading centers in the deep parts of the ocean, exploration of the approximately 700 submarine arc volcanoes is relatively recent [de Ronde et al., 2003]. At these submarine arc volcanoes, active hydrothermal vents are located at unexpectedly shallow water depth (95% at <1600-meter depth), which has important consequences for the style of venting, the nature of associated mineral deposits, and the local biological communities.
As part of an ongoing multinational research effort to study shallow submarine volcanic arcs, two hydrothermal systems in the submerged part of the Aeolian arc have been investigated in detail during research cruises by R/V Poseidon (July 2006) and R/V Meteor (August 2007). Comprehensive seafloor video surveys were conducted using a remotely operated vehicle, and drilling to a depth of 5 meters was carried out using a lander-type submersible drill. This research has resulted in the first detailed, three-dimensional documentation of shallow submarine hydrothermal systems on arc volcanoes.
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