A timely, splendidly lucid account of hydrothermal vents (warm undersea mineral springs) that chronicles these extraordinary phenomena from their discovery in 1977 by the undersea research ship Knorr up to the International Geological Congress of 1989. This ""Earth Processes Book"" describes the awesome mile-deep world containing five-foot white-stalked tube worms, giant crabs and clams, and other animals flourishing in total darkness. The existence of these ""Oases"" poses new questions and provides new information: geologists are learning more about mineral deposits; biologists are gaining insights into the origins and evolution of life forms; ecologists are postulating organic solutions to pollution problems, and space scientists are speculating on life on methane-rich Neptune. The meek pink-and-purple cover may limit browser appeal, but Fodor's text is vividly written, the book's content outstanding. Photos; glossary; further reading; index.