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Arctic Deep – Dive Site: The Svyatogor Ridge

Understanding the biological and geochemical dynamics at the Svyatogor Ridge: Insights into the complex and fragile world of ‘cold seeps’.

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The Svyatogor Ridge, located within the intricate tectonic framework of the Arctic mid-ocean ridge system west of Svalbard, serves as a unique natural laboratory for studying the interactions between geological processes and deep-sea ecosystems.

The sites that the expedition are exploring, known as ‘cold seeps‘, are similar to hydrothermal vent sites in that they are powered by chemosynthetic processes that operate independently of sunlight. The deepest dive sites so far on the Arctic Deep expedition, the target sites are located at a depth of around 3700m.

Unlike hydrothermal vents, which rely on superheated fluids to catalyse their food chains, cold seeps are characterised by the interaction between bacteria and methane. Their complex chemistry provides essential energy sources for diverse communities of organisms. At the heart of these communities are chemosynthetic bacteria, which have the remarkable ability to convert hydrocarbons into organic matter.

Geological Background

The Svyatogor Ridge, part of the broader Knipovich Ridge, is distinguished by its slow-spreading nature. This is in contrast to more dynamic mid-ocean ridge systems, which are defined by faster tectonic activity and different geological formations. The geology of the ridge is marked by extensive sediment cover and transform faulting, which influence local methane dynamics. Methane seepage at this ridge has been documented through complex fluid flow systems, highlighted by recent geochemical evidence such as gas flares from the seafloor, visible to multibeam sonar as plumes in the water column.

Biological Significance

The Svyatogor Ridge hosts diverse chemosynthetic communities that thrive in methane-rich environments. These communities are primarily composed of microbial mats and specialised fauna, such as tube worms and bivalves, which flourish in sulphur-rich environments. These ecosystems are of particular interest not only for their adaptation to extreme conditions but also for their role in the larger ecological system, contributing to the biodiversity of the Arctic deep-sea environments.

The exploration and study of the Svyatogor Ridge have been facilitated by significant technological advancements. Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), such as REV Ocean’s Aurora, equipped with advanced sensing and sampling technologies, allow researchers to conduct detailed investigations of the seafloor in this underexplored region. These technologies, combined with advanced multibeam sonar, enable the precise mapping of geological features and the collection of high-resolution data essential for understanding the complex interactions at play.

The integration of interdisciplinary research approaches involving geology, chemistry, and biology will enhance our understanding of how life adapts to extreme environments, the evolutionary connectivity of Arctic and Antarctic vent and cold seep life. By studying these organisms, scientists gain valuable insights into the range of environmental conditions that can support life and even the potential implications for the possibility of life elsewhere in the solar system.


C. Argentino, C. Borrelli, A. Akinselure, M. Correa-Diaz, G. Panieri, Biogeochemical investigations of methane seepage at the ultraslow-spreading Arctic mid-ocean ridge: Svyatogor ridge, Fram Strait, Marine and Petroleum Geology, 162, (2024).

Waghorn, K.A., Vadakkepuliyambatta, S., Plaza-Faverola, A. et al. Crustal processes sustain Arctic abiotic gas hydrate and fluid flow systems. Sci Rep 10, 10679 (2020).

Check out our previous dive sites: The Jøtul Field, The Knipovich Ridge.

Find out more about the Ocean Census Arctic Deep Expedition.

Image Credits: Ocean Census



The Arctic remains one of the least explored regions on Earth. This is especially true of the Arctic deep ocean, much of its seafloor in Arctic latitudes challenging to explore.

However, within this expansive, deep, and cold environment lie biodiverse habitats teeming with species, many of which remain undiscovered by science.

This groundbreaking expedition is led by The Nippon Foundation-Nekton Ocean Census Alliance, UiT (The Arctic University of Norway), and REV Ocean.

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