© Ifremer / CNRS Images-media - 2002



PHARE 2002, an oceanographic research project

The oceanographic research project PHARE (standing for Peuplements hydrothermaux, leurs associations et relations avec l'environnement, that is, "Hydrothermal populations, their associations and relations to the environment") was implemented between April 30 and June 3, 2002 in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Mexico on board the Atalante, an oceanographic vessel belonging to IFREMER.

The task of the CNRS researchers and IFREMER was to study animal communities living in the area of the hydrothermal springs which are formed in the depths of the ocean by volcanic activity related to the dorsal areas. The creatures in these very unusual ecosystems tolerate extreme temperature conditions and the highest concentrations of sulphides and metals on Earth. Cut off from the light of the sun, these ecosystems are based on chemosynthesis.

To explore these ocean depths, the scientists use Victor, a multi-instrument robot able to function at a depth of more than 6000 meters, while being entirely remote-controlled from the surface. Victor is equipped with two manipulator arms which enable it to position measuring devices and to collect samples. It is also equipped with seven cameras and powerful lighting equipment. The scientists divide up the samples collected by Victor by discipline - biology, microbiology, ecophysiology, chemistry, and geology. Various innovative pieces of equipment have been developed by the research teams; in particular, pressurized chambers replicate the pressure and temperature conditions in the natural environment of these deep-sea organisms.



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