Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 20: Mar-Apr 1982

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











Subterranean petroleum factories?

Sediment samples dredged up from the bottom of the Gulf of California near some hydrothermal vents contain petroleum similar in some ways to commercial petroleum. Apparently organic matter in the vicinity of the vent is thermally converted into oil, or at least something that, like wine, matures into something useful.

(Simoneit, Bernd R.T., and Lonsdale, Peter F.; "Hydrothermal Petroleum in Mineralized Mounds at the Seabed of Guayman Basin," Nature, 295:198, 1982.)

Comment. The recently discovered hydrothermal vents are only the external manifestations of what must be extensive chemical factories beneath the crust. The rich assemblages of thermosynthetic life (not photosynthetic life) around the vents makes one speculate about what might be transpiring chemically and biologically in the hot, fluid-saturated crevices and pores of the earth's crust. Carbon dating of petroleum sometimes yields absurdly young ages. Could it be that all the natural gas and petroleum we could ever need is now being manufactured for us subterraneanly ? The Gaia hypothesis would lead us to expect just such a process. After all, humankind requires abundant fuel if it is to carry earth life out into the reaches of space!

From Science Frontiers #20, MAR-APR 1982. 1982-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987