|JAGO submarine in the Black Sea|
Diving in a little German submarine called Jago, peering through an acrylic porthole several inches thick, he saw a fog of floating particles.Then, looming out of the dark and into the sub’s tight halo of floodlight, through curtains of rising bubbles that made it seem as if the sub were driving through champagne, Seifert saw chimneys—black, knobby spires, the tallest rising more than 13 feet off the seafloor. Chimneys made by erupting volcanic minerals are common at hot springs in mid-ocean ridges. But this was not a hot spring, and these chimneys were not built of volcanic rock.The pilot prodded one with Jago’s hydraulic arm. It was soft, like flesh. He knocked one over, felling it as if it were a tree to reveal its cross section. Under a black outer layer there was a thick layer of pink and a core that was harder and greenish gray. The chimney had been made entirely by single-celled microbes. The microbes formed the outer layers; the hard core was a carbonate mineral they had secreted.
Where did we get our ideas for Obelisk Seven from? In many cases, from real life, as in the case of these microbes. Tough bugs form an important part of our novel.To keep these exotic organisms alive during their trip to the laboratory, the researchers designed special containers that resembled the microbe's 'home' environment—cold water with no oxygen but lots of methane. Back in the laboratory, the researchers confirmed their suspicion that the microbes were eating methane.