Hydrothermal Vents

Have you entered the springs of the sea? Or have you walked in search of the depths?

– Job 38: 16

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.

– Genesis 7: 11


Image Source

1. The word used for “springs” in Job 38: 16 is “nebek” (transliterated from Hebrew)

  • This is an unusual word appearing only once in the Bible
  • It refers to places where water issues or bursts out of the earth
  • In this passage of Scripture, Job is being told specifically that such fountains exist underneath the ocean 1
  • While Job 38 alone uses the word ‘nebek’, there are other texts that also refer to such springs of the deep
  • In Genesis 7:11 we are told that part of the cause of the Great Flood had to do with the “fountains of the   great deep” being broken up

2. The Hebrew word for “fountain” is transliterated “mayanoth” and it means, “well” or “spring” or “place of irrigation” 2

3. The word for the “deep” in both the Genesis and Job texts is “tehom” – tt is the word used for the “ocean” or the “sea”; the “abyss” or “subterranean waters” 3

“He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses.”

– Psalm 33: 7

“When God established the clouds above, when He strengthened the fountains of the deep.”

– Proverbs 8: 28

hypothermal-vents hypothermal-vents-closeups

 Image Source (illustration): http://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/viewSlideshow.do?clid=25872&aid=40787

Image Source (vents): http://www.seasky.org/deep-sea/hydrothermal-vents.html

The discovery of hot water springs (also called “hydrothermal vents”) in the ocean floor is a very recent event. A brief overview of the history is as follows:
1880 – A Russian ship named the Vitaz took deep sea temperature samples in the Red Sea and found some deep sea water measured at warmer temperatures than surface water

  • This was one of the earliest indications that there may be hydrothermal vents (i.e., hot water springs) releasing hot water into the sea. 4

1922 – The USS Stewart uses an acoustic echo sounding device made by Harvey Hayes and makes a run across the Atlantic Ocean

  • This provides the first formal attempt to perform an electronic measurement of water depth stretching across the ocean 5

1934 – William Beebe and Otis Barton design the bathysphere which enables scientists to reach a depth of 3,028 feet below the surface of the ocean 6

1945 – On the heels of WWII, the US Coast and Geodetic Survey (CGS) leads the way in developing sophisticated underwater exploration techniques

  • Technology coming out of this era includes deep-ocean camera systems, early magnetometers, side scan sonar instruments, and early technology for guiding ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) 7

1950’s – Numerous undersea volcanoes called “seamounts” and “guyots” are discovered as a result of new the technology

1953 – Marie Tharpe discovers the rift valley in sounding profiles made along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

  • Eventually, Bruce Heezen and Maurice Ewing determine that there is a continuous rift valley extending over 40,000 nautical miles along all the oceanic ridge segments of the world 8

1960 – Scientists discover shallow hot water springs off the coast of Baja, California 9

1964 – The British research vessel Discovery locates hot brines (i.e., deep sea water with a higher temperature than surface water) in the Red Sea.

  • This brine was indirect evidence of water coming out of the ocean floor. 10

1964 – Alvin, the first deep-sea submersible capable of carrying passengers (usually a pilot and two observers) is launched.

  • Eventually, the submersible would be able to reach a maximum depth of 14,764 ft. 11

1973 – Evidence of underwater springs is found along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge 12


1977 – Researchers using Alvin discover the first hydrothermal vents in the Pacific Ocean near the Galapagos Islands.

  • Since then, Alvin has located more than 24 hydrothermal sites in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. 13


1979 – Robert Ballard locates deep water volcanoes that spew hot mineral rich water near Baja California along the Pacific rise. 14