INSPIRE: Chile Margin 2010

The essays below will help you to understand the goals and objectives of the mission and provide additional context and information about the places being explored and the science, tools, and technologies being used.

  • Mission Introduction

    The incredible geology of Chile, such as found in Torres Del Paine, does not stop at the ocean’s edge. Exploring four sites along the Chilean coast, we will study how the exceptional geologic structures fuel a unique suite of species.

    Jolted by the planet’s biggest earthquakes, sequestering massive reservoirs of methane, while slowly swallowing a mid-ocean ridge, the Chilean margin offers an inspiring natural laboratory for investigating the complex interactions among the solid earth, the deep ocean, and the biosphere.

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  • Mission Plan

    Figure 1. During this 2,400 kilometer (1,500 mile) voyage, we will visit four sites along the Chile margin, starting in the town of Puerto Montt in Southern Chile and ending in Valparaiso.

    The Chile coastline stretches along for more than 4,300 kilometers (2,700 miles). Its geology and biology provide an incredible natural laboratory for the study of how life on our earth functions and has evolved.

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  • Deep, Dark, and Ready for Exploration

    By Christopher German

    Figure 1. The autonomous benthic explorer (ABE) a free-swimming robot. In this image, ABE is about to be set loose to explore the bottom of the SW Indian Ocean from aboard the Chinese research ship Da Yang Yi Hao in 2007.

    The deep ocean is a vast and mostly unexplored system. It is also the largest, single, contiguous (joined together, without a break) habitat for life on our planet.

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  • Seafloor Habitats of the Chile Margin

    By Benjamin Grupe

    Figure 1. This tube core measures 8 centimeters (about 3.1 inches) in diameter and collected from a Thioploca bacterial mat in the Peru-Chile oxygen minimum zone.

    Chile’s deep-sea floor is a region of extremes. Here we can find extremely low oxygen in what is affectionately called the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ); extremely cold and deep water in the Chile trench (nearly 6.45 kilometers/4 miles down!); sediments full of extremely toxic sulfides and methane at cold seeps; and extremely hot water at hydrothermal vents (at least we are pretty sure these exist).

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  • Chile Margin and Triple Junction Geology

    By Ashlee Henig, Donna Blackman, and Christopher German

    Figure 3. This cross-section illustration shows a spreading ridge axis and several components of a hydrothermal vent system. Note a “black smoker” chimney (shown in the inset) at a hydrothermal site.

    The Chile margin is composed of submerged continental shelf extending from the west coast of Chile into the Pacific Ocean. It is is as geologically diverse as it is long.

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  • Methane in the Ocean

    By Monica Heintz

    Figure 1. Methane is composed of one carbon atom surrounded by four hydrogen atoms.

    Methane (CH4) (figure 1) is the simplest hydrocarbon, and is the primary component of the natural gas that we burn for energy.

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  • Biodiversity of the Deep, Reducing, and Chile Margins

    By Andrew Thurber

    Figure 1. Extensive beds of siboglinid polychaetes (beard worms) provide a habitat for many animals.

    The deep sea is cold, dark, and inhospitable to humans, but it holds untold and unknown biodiversity (number and variety of organisms found in a region).

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