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HOV Alvin

Splash in the Dark

April 22, 2019

The human-occupied submersible Alvin isn’t often recovered after dark—usually it’s on deck in time for dinner, even though the sub holds enough oxygen, food, and water for the pilot and two observers to stay submerged for nearly four days, if necessary. On a recent expedition to the hydrothermal vents on the East Pacific Rise at 9°50’N, however, the sub got in the water later than expected, so rather than cut the dive short, the science and Alvin teams decided to come up after sunset, which made for a dramatic and picturesque recovery (above). It also gave members of the sub team and ship’s crew an opportunity to practice recovering Alvin in the dark, something that is likely to become a more common occurrence after the sub’s upcoming overhaul, which will make it capable of reaching 6,500 meters (4 miles), but also requiring it to take longer to make the trip between the surface and seafloor. (Photo by Jason Sylvan, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

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