In a mesmerizing discovery beneath the Atlantic Ocean, scientists have unveiled the “Lost City Hydrothermal Field,” an otherworldly environment boasting towering structures and a thriving ecosystem, reported Science Alert. Located close to the summit of an underwater mountain west of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, this hydrothermal field has captivated researchers since its discovery in 2000, showcasing a distinctive landscape of creamy carbonate towers, some towering up to 60 meters (nearly 200 feet) tall.
Unlike any other venting environment known on Earth, the Lost City has sustained its existence for at least 120,000 years, or possibly longer. These structures, rising from depths of more than 700 meters (2,300 feet), result from a remarkable geological phenomenon where the upthrusting mantle reacts with seawater, releasing hydrogen, methane, and other dissolved gases into the ocean.
What makes the Lost City truly exceptional is the presence of hydrocarbons, essential building blocks of life, formed not from atmospheric carbon dioxide or sunlight but through chemical reactions on the deep seafloor. This distinctive characteristic raises the intriguing possibility that life could have originated in a habitat akin to the Lost City, not only on Earth but potentially on other celestial bodies.
Microbiologist William Brazelton suggests, “This is an example of a type of ecosystem that could be active on Enceladus or Europa right this second, and maybe Mars in the past.” The Lost City’s ecosystem, in contrast to other hydrothermal fields like black smokers, doesn’t rely on magma’s heat. Its chimneys, including the grand Poseidon standing over 60 meters high, produce up to 100 times more hydrogen and methane than black smokers, indicating a prolonged period of activity.
Despite its extraordinary nature, the Lost City faces an uncertain future. In 2018, Poland secured rights to mine the deep-sea region surrounding the Lost City, posing a potential threat to this unique habitat. The mining activities, even if not directly impacting the hydrothermal field, could lead to unintended consequences such as plumes or discharges affecting the surrounding ecosystem.
As concerns for the Lost City’s preservation escalate, there are growing calls for its recognition as a World Heritage site to safeguard this natural wonder from potential exploitation. The delicate balance of this extraordinary ecosystem, which has endured for tens of thousands of years, now hangs in the balance as humans grapple with the responsibility of protecting Earth’s hidden marvels.

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