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a time for fear
 
Saturday, September 13, 2003  
Seamounts

are isolated, fully-submerged volcanic mountains in the Atlantic and Pacific, ridges and canyons rising thousands of metres from the sea floor. Seamounts are largely unexplored: of the Pacific's 30,000, only 220 - 250 have been studied. 40% of all species studied on these colossal basalt peaks are new discoveries. They harbour creatures whose extinction had previously been dated back to the Mesozoic era, and coral communties that have evolved over thousands of years. Evolution has taken a divergent path on each seamount, there is no consistency or equivalence, they develop like different countries sharing, at most, 20% of their species. Seamount dwellers are sustained by nutrient rich currents deflected up the slopes, picking up speed as they near the summit. The summits support communities of suspension feeders: corals, sponges and seafans that filter organic matter from the passing currents. Sea-spiders and lobsters dwell in the coral, crags and rock outcrops of the slopes and whales and tuna fish feed around the mountains as they pass by on migratory routes. Creatures of the lower slopes, trenches and sea floor feed on the nutrient fallout that showers down from activity on the upper slopes.

Meanwhile, advanced fishing fleets abandon exhausted routes and depleted stocks, and mine the mounts for rare and exotic marine delicacies like orange roughy, alfonsino and deep-water red fish. Anything edible, or beautiful, a culinary paradise for the wealthy, the dedicated, the curious and the refined.

Data. Mechanics of the earth's crust. Spew and surge of vivid red lava steaming in the deep blue. The seismic ripples along continental shelves. Plates of lithosphere collide. Tectonic plate subducted. Seeping crust melts, forms magma. Gas forms from magma, builds up pressure and erupts. Volcanoes form islands. Sediments collect. Continents drift together. Ocean basin diminishes. Island accrection; the island arc is accreting to one side. Basin may close. A mountain range is formed out of deformed sedimentary and metamorphic rock.

And, the crumbling poles. Shafts, shelves and slabs of ice break off or drift away from the ice-edge, the brittle shelf, smashing into grey ocean or silently detaching. The ice-shelves recede like a suicide pact.

The Maldives will be submerged, the Alps bare and dripping.

No more food, time to leave.

11:32 PM

 
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