Yvonne Jeanette Karlsen paintings
But what makes the Gakkel Ridge so fascinating to scientists is it spreads at about a twentieth of the pace of other spreading centers. And unlike other ridges, which bubble with heat as molten rock spews onto the ocean floor, Gakkel is sort of like a "big crack in the Earth," according to Henry Dick of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who first came up with the idea of studying the ridge 15 years ago.That means there may be all sorts of life down there that is very different from life near other spreading centers.The Healy will be working jointly with a German icebreaker Polarstern, and the ships will work in tandem along 500 miles of the ridge. First the ships will have to break the ice, then they will drop a rather crude-looking device dubbed unofficially as a "bed of nails." The device will be attached to a long cable, so it can be hauled back up with, researchers hope, chunks of rock from the ridge attached.And when it's all over, the mysteries of the deep should be a little less mysterious.