Nature Nugget – Deep Sea Hydrothermal Vents

Due to plate shifting, fissures open up in the earth’s surface, allowing water to be sucked down toward the center of the earth, where it comes in contact with hot molten magma. This super heats the water to as high as 760 degrees Fahrenheit and forces it back up into the environment through the ocean floor. These hot springs are called hydrothermal vents, and many are located at very deep depths where it is pitch black and the seawater is frigid cold.

Not only is the water from these vents boiling hot, it is also a toxic mix of heavy metals and poisonous gases of which, foremost among them, is hydrogen sulfide. Besides these toxic chemicals and boiling temperatures, most vent water is extremely acid, with pH values as low as 2.8, which is more acid than vinegar.

In spite of these harsh conditions and the enormous pressure from the great depth, life thrives here. Amazing communities of life consisting of fish, crabs, shrimps, clams, tubeworms, and snails, to name a few, exist here. Many of these creatures are blind and lack pigment, and some are giants. More than 300 species of vent life have been identified by biologists, of which over 95 percent were new to science.

All other life ever identified on land or in the sea derives its energy either directly or indirectly from the sun. Since sunlight cannot penetrate this depth, there is no plant life and, hence, no photosynthesis, which is the basis of all other known life on the planet. Heat vent species rely not on photons from the sun, but on thermal and chemical energy derived from the heat and chemicals coming from the earth’s interior.

Tiny microbes (bacteria) oxidize the hydrogen sulfide that diffuses out of the vents, through a process called chemosynthesis, providing nutrients for animals higher up the food chain. Some creatures, like gastropod snails, feed directly on the bacteria which form mats on the sea floor around the vents. Other creatures, such as fish, dine on animals that eat or make use of the bacteria. Still others, such as tubeworms, host the microbes in their tissues in exchange for organic compounds that they produce from the vent chemicals and seawater.

While vent microbes thrive on hydrogen sulfide, it is lethal to other vent creatures that have to keep their distance from the source. The boiling water is also lethal to all the vent creatures except for the microbes which flourish in it. The other creatures live in the lower temperature zones produced by the boiling vent water mixing with the frigid deep-sea water. The only element from above that these heat vent creatures require is oxygen, which is abundant in seawater and was originally produced by plants, so ultimately this ecosystem relies on sunlight also.

Just as these deep-sea vent creatures, located far from the sunlight, still depend on the sun for life-giving oxygen, so the human race, which has been separated from God by their sins, is still dependant on Him for their every breath and, ultimately, on Him for eternal life. “Nature and revelation alike testify of God’s love. Our Father in heaven is the source of life, of wisdom, and of joy. Look at the wonderful and beautiful things of nature. Think of their marvelous adaptation to the needs and happiness, not only of man, but of all living creatures. The sunshine and the rain, that gladden and refresh the earth, the hills and seas and plains, all speak to us of the Creator’s love. It is God who supplies the daily needs of all His creatures.” Steps to Christ, 5.

Children’s Story – Hurricanes and Shredded Sails

You have all heard the story of Jonah and how the prophet of the Lord tried to run away from doing the job that God had given him to do in warning Nineveh. Our story this time is about a missionary and how God again directed a ship by a great storm. This time, however, God used the storm to take a man to a place where people had been praying for missionaries to come.

In 1786, a party of Methodist missionaries sailed from England on their way to Nova Scotia in Canada. There was already some mission work going on in the area, and these missionaries were going there to help strengthen the mission work that was already begun. They set sail from England on September 24. Their progress was very slow; for week after week, they found themselves being buffeted by storms. The seas were rough and the winds blew hard. Two months later, on December 4, they were finally approaching Newfoundland, but still seemed unable to complete their crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.

About this time, Dr. Coke, the leader of the mission party, received a very strong impression that they were going to be driven to the West Indies. This was a very strange thing, as they were even then getting very close to Newfoundland, and the West Indies were thousands of miles away.

Because of the contrary winds, it was becoming almost impossible for the captain to hold his course. He became convinced that somehow the missionaries were responsible for his trouble. Crying out that there was a Jonah on board, he threw many of Dr. Coke’s books and papers overboard and even threatened to throw the doctor himself over.

At ten in the evening, a dreadful gale blew from the northwest. Mr. Hilditch, one of the passengers, came running to Dr. Coke, crying, “Pray for us, Doctor, pray for us, for we are just gone!” Coming out of his cabin, Dr. Coke learned that a dreadful hurricane had just arisen. The crew, being taken by surprise, had not had time to take down the sails and expecting that at any moment the ship would be filled with water and sink, in desperation were about to cut the mast down. Once the mast and sail had been cut down the ship would no longer be able to travel with the wind and would float helplessly on the sea.

After meeting for prayer, the missionaries sang a hymn together. Just at that moment, the foresail shredded to pieces, allowing the crew to save the mast, and probably the ship itself.

The captain decided to head across the Atlantic for the West Indies, the very place that Dr. Coke had felt impressed they were to go. The half-wrecked ship landed at Antigua in the West Indies on Christmas day. On this Island, two thousand miles from their intended destination, the Methodist missionaries found a shipwright [a carpenter who works on building and repairing ships] preacher by the name of Baxter, who had been working with the Black slaves of the island. Through his labors, more than two thousand had been converted to the gospel. These faithful people had been praying that God would send them missionaries!

Dr. Coke clearly understood God’s providence to have directed them to these islands to work for the people there, and he determined to make it his place of labor. He saw in their experience the “stormy wind fulfilling His Word” (see Psalm 148:8) in sending messengers of light across the seas. These missionaries were almost the first ray of light to have come to the slave population of these dark islands.

Dr. Coke was the agent used of God to plant the light of truth among the slaves of the West Indies. During his lifetime, he crossed and recrossed the Atlantic Ocean a number of times. Finally, in his old age on his way to start a mission on Ceylon, an island country not far from the coast of India, he died aboard a ship and was buried at sea.