August 1981


by Steven A. Austin, Ph.D.

One of the most profound and moving experiences in the life of the

Old Testament patriarch Job must have been his encounter with a

whirlwind. At a time when Job's undeserved suffering led him to a

point of despair, God questioned Job from the whirlwind concerning

his knowledge of Creation (see Job, Chapter 38). God confirmed

his sovereignty and justice by giving what must rank as the

greatest science test of all time.

Among the most thought provoking of God's questions to Job

was, "Have you entered into the springs of the sea?" (Job 38:16a).

The word for "springs" is NEBEK (transliterated from Hebrew), an

unusual word referring to the places where water issues or bursts

out of the earth. Job must have pondered this question with

amazement, for although he had seen many springs on the land, he

had no experience with undersea springs. Today we know why. The

ocean is very deep; almost all the ocean floor is in total

darkness; the pressure there is enormous. It would have been

impossible for Job to have explored the "springs of the sea."

Other Old Testament passages refer to springs of the sea.

Genesis 7:11 describes the cause of Noah's Flood and says that the

"fountains of the great deep were broken up and the floodgates of

heaven were opened." In the phrase "fountains of the great deep,"

the word "fountains" is MAYANOTH in the Hebrew and refers to

"springs" or something similar in many other passages in the Old

Testament. The phrase also mentions the "deep." The "deep" is the

Hebrew TEHOM that is mentioned in Genesis 1:2, where God's Spirit

brooded upon the face of the "waters," or the "deep."

Psalm 33:6-9 describes springs in the ocean relating them to

thel.r creation. The Psalmist says, "By the Word of the Lord were

the heavens made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host.

He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up

the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord, let

all the habitants of the world stand in awe before Him; for He

spoke and it was done, He commanded and it stood fast." So, from

the beginning of the creation, this passage is saying that the

waters of the sea were heaped together. In characteristic Hebrew

style this is rephrased in Psalm 33:7b as, "He lays up the deeps

in storehouses." So, there is some vessel which is containing a

portion of the deeps from the original creation.

Proverbs 8 contains an interesting personification of

wisdoryi, where Wisdom speaks. Beginning at verse 22 we read,

"When there were no depths, I (Wisdom) was brought forth; when

there were no springs abounding with water, before the mountains

were settled, before the hills, I was brought forth." Then verse

28 of Proverbs 8 says, "When he made firm the skies above, and the

springs of the deep became fixed." Here is another direct

reference to springs being in the ocean.

There are four main points in this matter that the Old

Testament affirms. First, the Old Testament asserts positively

that springs do exist in the ocean. The source of this knowledge

claims omniscience and is allowing that omniscience to be tested

by scientific investigation of the ocean floor. Second, the

undersea springs are said to have been established at the earth's

creation. Third, the Flood of Noah is claimed to have been

caused, at least in part, by an unusual activity of ocean floor

springs. Finally, springs are mentioned so we can marvel at the

wisdom and power of God.

The discovery of ocean floor springs represents a great

milestone in the scientific investigation of the earth. Before

1930 little was known about the ocean floor. Volcanoes were

observed to break the sea surface and this provided evidence of

undersea volcaiiisin. Beciuse modern volcanoes on land emit

steam, scientists suggested that water might be coming out of

volcanoes on the ocean floor.

The deep sea dives of William Beebe's bathysphere in the

1930's provided a close look at the ocean floor, but no springs

were observed. In the 1940's mapping of undersea topography was

under way using the echo sounder. Thousands of undersea volcanoes

called "seamounts" and "guyots" were recognized and speculation

about undersea springs increased. In the 1960's metal-rich, hot

brines were discovered using sonar iii the bottom of the Red Sea.

This brine was an indirect evidence of water coming out of the

ocean floor. Aided by reports from Mexican abalone divers,

scientists using scuba equipment located shallow-water hot springs

along the coast of Baja California in the late 1960s.

Vent in the seafloor where hot water issues from the earth into the ocean.

Deep diving research submarines have been constructed to

withstand the three-tons-per-square-inch pressure at the ocean

floor. These submarines have carried scientists into the deep.

The first direct observations of deepsea springs, or their

mineralized vents, appear to have been made on the Mid Atlantic

Ridge by Project FAMOUS in 1973. Spectacular hot springs were

then discovered on the Galapagos Rift in the Pacific Ocean by the

23-foot long submersible Aluin in 1977. Alum also explored,

photographed and sampled hot springs on the East Pacific Rise just

south of the Gulf of California in 1979. The research continues.

Several nontechnical magazine reports present photographs and

descriptions of these recently discovered seafloor springs. The

Galapagos Rift springs are described in the November 1979 issue of

National Geographic. The article is titled "Incredible World of

the Deep sea Rifts" and bears the caption: "Scientists explore

rifts in the seafloor where hot springs spew minerals and

startling life exists iii a strange world without sun.

The East Pacific Rise springs are shown in Science News,

January 12, 1980. This article is titled, "Smokers, Red Worms,

and Deep Sea Plumbing" and is followed by the caption; "Sea floor

oases of mineral-rich springs and amazing creatures fulfill

oceanographers' dreams." The discovery of these deep ocean springs

is said to be the "most significant oceanographic find since the

discovery of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge."

The hot springs have been called "black smokers." The "Smoke"

is the dark, mineral-laden, hot (up to 400'C) water spewing from

"chimneys" up to 15-feet tall atop mounds of minerals up to

60-feet high. The minerals coating the vents are largely sulfides

of copper, iron and zinc precipitated instantly as the hot geysers

contact the cold seawater. The vents provide the habitat for the

first community of animals to be discovered which does not obtain

energy by way of photosynthesis. Animals collected include

red-tipped tube worms, giant clams, mussels, sea worms, crabs,

and limpets.

The Science News article describes the East Pacific

Rise springs:

the researchers found about two dozen hot springs stretched

along 6 km of the half-kilometer wide spreading center. But next

to these angry-looking, superheated geysers-called "smokers"-the

Galapagos Rift vents looked like tepid sprinklers. Not only was

the gushing water about 300'C hotter (the first attempt to measure

the water temperature melted Alvin's heat probe), but around the

chimneys lay mounds of minerals including copper, iron, zinc and

sulfur with lesser amounts of cobalt, lead, silver and cadmium.

Like the Galapagos, however, the same animals, with the exception

of the mussels, were clustered in fields near the vents.

Although scientists have examined only a small portion of

ocean floor, seafloor springs appear to be common along the

40,000-mile Mid-Oceanic Ridge system. Dr. John M. Edmond of

M.I.T. suggests that water circulation through oceanic springs is

a major geologic process; he estimates that 40 cubic miles of

water flow out of earth's oceanic springs each year. If this is

so, then mineralization must be an important process on the sea

floor, and study of ocean springs may promote understanding and

location of ore deposits. Ocean springs are also a vast, untapped

source of geothermal energy, which, unfortunately, is located far

from the major population and energy demand areas.

The discovery of ocean springs ranks as one of the foremost

scientific accomplishments of the last ten years. Let us

remember, however, that their existence was known thousands of

years ago. Surely, God spoke through men by means of His Holy



Ballard, Robert D., and Grissle, J. Frederick, "Incredible World

of Deep-sea Rifts," National Geographic, V. 156, No. 5, November

1979, pp. 680-705.

West, Susan, "Smokers, Red Worms, dnd Deep Sea Plumbing," Science

News, V. 117, No. 2, January 12, 1980, pp. 28-30.

Corliss, John B., et al., "Submarine Thermal Springs on the

Galapagos Rift," Science, V. 203, No. 4385, March 16, 1979, pp.