BLACK smoker chimneys are hollow spires formed by mineral deposition at sea-floor hydrothermal vent sites. They grow in two stages: formation of a sulphate-dominated wall (stage I), followed by precipitation of sulphide minerals on the inner side, and in pore spaces, of the wall (stage II)1,2. Here we present the results of an in situ 46-day experiment which allows direct observation of stage I growth processes by monitoring wall and fluid temperatures. The position and thickness of stage I chimney walls can change on short timescales, and are controlled by the dynamics of fluid flow both during3 and after initial wall emplacement. The temperature in the main flow remained stable at 353±2°C throughout the experiment, including the period during which the chimney wall was constructed. Six thermocouples, however, recorded maximum temperatures between 365 and 405 °C, which are significantly higher than most exit temperatures documented previously4. These latter observations bear on the question of the maximum temperatures attainable in sea-floor hydrothermal systems (refs 4–9, J. R. Delaney, manuscript in preparation).
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Tivey, M., Olson, L., Miller, V. et al. Temperature measurements during initiation and growth of a black smoker chimney. Nature 346, 51–54 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1038/346051a0
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