The discovery of Brandon vent on the southern East Pacific Rise is providing new insights into the controls on midocean ridge hydrothermal vent fluid chemistry. The physical conditions at the time ofsampling (287 bar and 405°C) place the Brandon fluids very close to the critical point of seawater (298 bar and 407°C). This permits in situ study of the effects of near criticalphenomena, which are interpreted to be the primary cause of enhanced transition metal transport in these fluids. Of the five orifices on Brandon sampled, three were venting fluids with less than seawater chlorinity, and two were venting fluids with greater than seawater chlorinity. The liquid phase orifices contain 1.6-1.9 times the chloride content of the vapors. Most other elements, excluding the gases, have this same ratio demonstrating the conservative nature of phase separation and the lack of subsequent water-rock interaction. The vapor and liquid phases vent at the same time from orifices within meters of each other on the Brandon structure. Variations in fluid compositions occur on a time scale of minutes. Our interpretation is that phase separation and segregation must be occurring 'real time' within the sulfide structure itself. Fluids from Brandon therefore provide an unique opportunity to understand in situ phase separation without the overprinting of continued water-rock interaction with the oceanic crust, as well as critical phenomena. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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