Richard P. Von Herzen, Explorer of Earth’s Undersea Furnaces, Dies at 85

Date: February 8, 2016

Source: The New York TImes

Author: William J. Broad

Richard P. Von Herzen, an explorer who found that the icy depths of the deep sea conceal vast regions of simmering heat, helping to confirm the scientific view of the Earth’s crust as continuously in motion, died on Jan. 28 in Portola Valley, Calif. He was 85.

For more than a half-century, Dr. Von Herzen worked at the nation’s pre-eminent centers for ocean research — the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif.

In 1977, Dr. Von Herzen’s expedition to what then seemed like an anomalously warm ridge resulted in a spectacular discovery.

Richard P. Von Herzen, left, and Arthur E. Maxwell examined a machine that measures the bulk density of sediments. Credit Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego

Off the Galápagos Islands, diving in an American submersible, team members found the site teeming with life — contrary to the usual portrayals of the deep sea as a biological desert. The living surprises included red shrimp, brown mussels, pink fish with undulating tails and dense stands of tubeworms with bright red plumes.

The discovery sparked broad interest in the potential for dark ecosystems in the global sea, the primordial Earth and distant planets, including ones far beyond the solar system.




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