National Geographic Society

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It's Alive

Dr. Bob Ballard after snorkeling in the Mid-Atlantic Trench in Iceland.

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Together, with peer scientists from Britain, Ireland, Iceland, and the U.S., Dr. Ballard searches for the origin of life in the planet's most unforgiving environment: the darkness and chill of waters thousands of feet beneath the surface. Here, on the slopes of the Mid-Ocean ridges that divide the earth's tectonic plates, are formations called “chimneys,” where molten lava superheats the ocean, mixing in the nutrients and hardening magma that allows life to thrive against the odds.