The ability of metabolically diverse hyperthermophilic archaea to withstand high temperatures, low pHs, high sulfide concentrations, and the absence of carbon and energy sources was investigated. Close relatives of our study organisms, Methanocaldococcus jannaschii, Archaeoglobus profundus, Thermococcus fumicolans, and Pyrococcus sp. strain GB-D, are commonly found in hydrothermal vent chimney walls and hot sediments and possibly deeper in the subsurface, where highly dynamic hydrothermal flow patterns and steep chemical and temperature gradients provide an ever-changing mosaic of microhabitats. These organisms (with the possible exception of Pyrococcus strain GB-D) tolerated greater extremes of low pH, high sulfide concentration, and high temperature when actively growing and metabolizing than when starved of carbon sources and electron donors/acceptors. Therefore these organisms must be actively metabolizing in the hydrothermal vent chimneys, sediments, and subsurface in order to withstand at least 24 h of exposure to extremes of pH, sulfide, and temperature that occur in these environments.