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“Science Made Public” Lecture Series Celebrates Alvin’s 50th Year

July 3, 2014

This summer, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s “Science Made Public” series celebrates the deep-diving submersible Alvin’s 50 years in operation.

A venerable giant in deep ocean research, Alvin has logged many accomplishments over the years, from discovering hydrothermal vents to exploring the Titanic.  First launched in 1964, the sub underwent a significant upgrade over the last few years, and is now back at work, exploring our vast and changing ocean.

In July and August, the “Science Made Public” lecture series will host talks by WHOI scientist and engineers who have been involved with the sub in one fashion or another – building, maintaining, piloting and using it for research.  The series, held in the WHOI Ocean Science Exhibit Center auditorium, gives our local community and its summer visitors the opportunity to hear directly from and ask questions of those who know Alvin best.

The lineup of speakers for July includes a research engineer involved in Alvin’s recent, extensive upgrade over the last few years; an engineer describing her at-sea experience using Alvin in tandem with another robotic vehicle, Sentry; a long-time Alvin pilot who will tell stories of his adventures with the sub over more than 30 years; and a young scientist describing her experience diving in Alvin at hydrothermal vent sites for the first time.

The talks are free and begin at 3 p.m. at the WHOI Ocean Science Exhibit Center auditorium located at 15 School Street in Woods Hole.  The only exception is the July 22nd talk, which will take place in the Redfield Auditorium at 45 Water Street in Woods Hole.

For anyone who wants to know more about Alvin, historic photos, video, and much more about the sub are available on a special Alvin 50th website. Visitors can log on to personally wish Alvin a “happy birthday” and explore some of the other activities on the site.  Or, check out the latest Oceanus Magazine dedicated to AlvinAlvin can even be found on Facebook Alvin50th Facebook and Twitter #Alvin50.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, non-profit organization on Cape Cod, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the ocean’s role in the changing global environment. For more information, please visit



July 8, 2014 • 3 pm
Alvin Gets a Makeover
Megan Carroll, Research Engineer

The Alvin submersible recently went through a major upgrade and is now back exploring the ocean. Some of the major improvements include a new, bigger, more ergonomic personnel sphere, a modified titanium frame, new flotation modules, improved imaging and lighting system, and increased robotic arm maneuverability. Learn about these new systems, and how syntactic foam is used for Alvin’s buoyancy from one of the WHOI engineers who was involved in making these improvements and helped to reassemble the vehicle for operations in 2014.

July 15, 2014 • 3 pm
Two Underwater Vehicles Can Be Better Than One
Kaitlyn Tradd, Engineer

The Alvin sub and the autonomous underwater vehicle Sentry are among the most reliable, successful underwater research tools. To make the most of limited time aboard a ship, scientists and engineers sometimes use the two vehicles together. By night Sentry is launched, programmed to make maps of the seafloor. By day, researchers and sub pilots use those maps to explore target areas with the deep sea submersible Alvin. Learn from a WHOI engineer about a recent AlvinSentry cruise to the Gulf of Mexico and the logistics and intricacies of tandem operations.

July 22, 2014 • 3 pm
50+ Years of Ocean Exploration*
Dudley Foster, Alvin Pilot, Retired

During the last 50 years, Alvin has made numerous undersea discoveries and been involved in countless observations, sample collections, and deployment and recovery of experiments. During those years Alvin has been upgraded with the latest in computer hardware, imaging systems, and deep sea instrumentation, so it continues to be “state-of-the-art.” Hear from this long-time Alvin pilot about the major milestones in Alvin‘s history and some of its adventures between 1972-2006.

*Please note: this event will take place in Redfield Auditorium located at 45 Water Street in Woods Hole.

July 29, 2014 • 3 pm
Exploring Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vents in Alvin
Jill McDermott, Marine Chemist

The circulation of seawater-derived fluids through seafloor hydrothermal vents releases abundant chemical energy. This discovery has expanded our understanding of the limits and constraints on life in extreme environments. Hear from this MITWHOI Joint Program student about her experience diving in Alvin to investigate a volcanic eruption, and learn how deep-sea research on Earth can inform the search for life, and the compounds that support life, elsewhere in our solar system.