Abyssal temperature and velocity observations performed within the framework of the Neutrino Mediterranean Observatory, a project devoted to constructing a km(3)-scale underwater telescope for the detection of high-energy cosmic neutrinos, demonstrate cross-fertilization between subnuclear physics and experimental oceanography. Here we use data collected south of Sicily in the Ionian abyssal plain of the Eastern Mediterranean (EM) basin to show for the first time that abyssal vortices exist in the EM, at depths exceeding 2,500 m. The eddies consist of chains of near-inertially pulsating mesoscale cyclones/anticyclones. They are embedded in an abyssal current flowing towards North-Northwest. The paucity of existing data does not allow for an unambiguous determination of the vortex origin. A local generation mechanism seems probable, but a remote genesis cannot be excluded a priori. The presence of such eddies adds further complexity to the discussion of structure and evolution of water masses in the EM.
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