Flammable Ice; November 1999; Scientific American Magazine; by Suess, Bohrmann, Greinert, Lausch; 8 Page(s)
It was a thrilling moment when the enormous seafloor sampler opened its metallic jaws and dumped its catch onto the deck of our ship, Sonne. A white substance resembling effervescent snow gleamed amid the dark mud hauled up from the bottom of the North Pacific Ocean. Watching it melt before our eyes, we sensed that we had struck our own kind of gold.
As members of the Research Center for Marine Geosciences (GEOMAR) at Christian Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany, we and our colleagues were searching for methane hydrate-a white, icelike compound made up of molecules of methane gas trapped inside cages of frozen water. To that end, we had undertaken several expeditions to inspect, with the help of a video camera tethered to the ship, a submarine ridge about 100 kilometers (62 miles) off the coast of Oregon. Earlier seismic investigations and drilling had suggested that this area might hold a substantial stash of our treasure. On July 12, 1996, we noticed peculiar white spots in the mud 785 meters (2,575 feet) below our ship.