Dive 1461 was the seventh of nine dives during a sea-going field program to investigate hydrothermal activity along the crest of the southern Juan de Fuca Ridge. During this dive on the Plume site, ALVIN crossed the western floor of the axial valley and traversed about 300 ra of the rim and floor of the narrow inner cleft. Hydrotherraal vents were observed only along the east wall of the inner cleft, and venting was concentrated in a single area less than 50 ra long near the base of that wall. The principal vents extended up the wall from the floor of the cleft to a height of about 10 m. Deposits of hydrothermal minerals occur as incrustations and chimneys on the floor and wall of the cleft. Associated with the hydrothermal vents is a community of vent organisms dominated by vestimentiferan worms and fluffy materials of uncertain nature.
The inner cleft at the Plume Site is about 60 ra wide and 15-30 m deep. It has a simple U-shaped profile north of the active vent area, but to the south it contains at least one high, narrow ridge which converges with the east wall of the cleft at the site of hydrothermal venting. This area was also the site of a volcanic eruption, which occurred sometime earlier. Like many similar but subaerial examples, this eruption was episodic, but the cause of its interruptions is not yet known. The present hydrotherraal activity appears to be a residual effect of that last eruption, and the rate of hydrothermal deposition will probably decline in this area until another eruption occurs.
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