There is light at the bottom of the deep dark seas, scientists say they have discovered off the Washington coast.

A group of scientists headed by University of Washington oceanographers said they photographed the ocean-bottom light at hydrothermal vents 180 miles off the Washington coast.The vents, openings along the ridges where the plates of the Earth's surface meet, spew out 650-degree water that has picked up minerals in the seabed.

The light confirms a hypothesis that Cindy Lee Van Dover, 34, a graduate student in oceanography in a joint Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Massachusetts Institute of Technology program, has been working on for two years.

The discovery also ends the long-held scientific belief that there is no light at the ocean bottoms, said John Delaney, 46, UW professor of oceanography and lead scientist for the dive.

Ms. Van Dover, after whom the light has been named the "Van Dover Glow," began her research in the summer of 1986 on live shrimp that crowded together around Atlantic Ocean hot springs feeding on bacteria. The creatures lack normal shrimp eyes.

Ms. Van Dover said she noticed large organs beneath their shells that had no lenses, but otherwise looked like eyes. Further study proved the organs were light-sensitive, although they could not form images.

Tuesday, during the research submersible Alvin's final 2,200-meter dive, which is nearly 1.4 miles below sea level, the scientists said they finally proved the hypothesis.

Submarine pilot Dudley Foster held the vessel steady enough against strong currents for a camera to take 20-second exposures of the hot springs.

When processed, the images showed light coming from two different hot springs, the scientists said.